The Capitol in Washington. The Capitol in Washington. (Photo: Mike Scarcella/ALM)

Members of the U.S. Senate approved H.R. 1418, a bill that would repeal a partial antitrust exemption for health insurers, and for dental insurers, by a voice vote Tuesday.

The House approved an identical version of the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2020″ bill by a voice vote Sept. 21.

Congress is now sending the bill to the desk of President Donald Trump. The president could sign the bill or veto it. If he decides to veto the bill, Congress could try to overturn the veto, or it could suspend work on the bill.

Resources

  • The text of H.R. 1418  is available here.
  • An article about how some state lawmakers with an interest in McCarran-Ferguson see the matter is available here.

H.R. 1418 would change part of the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, a law that establishes the framework for how the federal government shares oversight of insurance with state insurance regulators. One section exempts insurers from federal antitrust oversight under the Sherman Act.

H.R. 1418 would add a section that states that, “Nothing contained in this act shall modify, impair, or supersede the operation of any of the antitrust laws with respect to the business of health insurance (including the business of dental insurance and limited-scope dental benefits).”

The bill contains exemptions for insurer efforts to collect and analyze experience data: to perform actuarial services, “if such contract, combination, or conspiracy does not involve a restraint of trade,” and efforts to develop standard insurance policy forms.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced the bill in the Senate together with Sen. Matt Daines, R-Mont.

Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., introduced the bill in the House.

Health insurers, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the National Council of Insurance Legislators have been defending health insurers’ exemption from federal antitrust regulation for decades.

Matt Eyles, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), said in a statement about passage of H.R. 1418 that implementation of the bill would add layers of bureaucracy to health insurers and destabilize markets.

“Removal of this exemption adds tremendous administrative costs while delivering absolutely no value for patients and consumers,” Eyles said.

Consumer Reports put out a commentary welcoming passage of H.R. 1418.

“The antitrust exemption has essentially allowed health insurers to act as a monopoly, making demands in lockstep on the terms they will offer consumers and health care providers,” the advocacy organization said in a comment on bill passage. “The resulting squeeze puts pressure on providers to cut corners on service in order to increase the profits the health insurers can extract.”

— Read DOJ Backs Oscar in Antitrust Suit Against Florida Blueon ThinkAdvisor.

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