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House committee votes to repeal antitrust protections for health insurers

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By Shailagh Murray Washington Post Staff Writer

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to strip federal antitrust protections shielding health insurers from investigations into price fixing and other business practices, the first step in a legislative bid to clamp down on the much-maligned industry.

Although Democrats have led the repeal push in recent weeks, the committee's 20-9 vote came with the support of three Republicans. The legislation would repeal portions of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act that allows states to regulate health insurance providers without federal intervention. But critics of the law say that 64 years after its passage, the result has been regional monopolies that inflate premiums and discriminate against people based on their health status, gender and other factors.

Repeal advocates said they would seek to include language similar to what passed Judiciary in the health-care reform bills now moving through the House and Senate, although the legislation also could move separately. The three Republicans who voted for the House Judiciary bill were Rep. Dan Lundgren, the former California attorney general; Rep. Louis Gohmert (Tex.), a former judge; and Rep. Tom Rooney (Fla.), a former state assistant attorney general.

"No one on this committee believes that price fixing or carving up markets is a good thing, and the wide, bipartisan support for this bill's passage reflects this," said Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.). "This measure fixes a mistake sitting on the federal statutes for over 60 years."

In a letter sent to Conyers this morning, Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, disputed the legislation's necessity. "We believe that health insurers have not been engaging in anticompetitive conduct and that McCarran-Ferguson does not provide a shield for such conduct," Ignagni wrote. "Thus, the bills attempt to remedy a problem that does not exist.

She also warned that "injecting a second regulatory scheme" at the federal level, on top of a vast array of state insurance laws, could create serious confusion for the industry. "We ask you to consider our strong concerns that such legal uncertainty could chill or limit newly developing activities that will benefit consumers and doctors . . . and add to the already substantial cost that litigation imposes on the health care system," Ignagni wrote.

But lawmakers who are pressing for repeal said the exemption is outdated, adopted in a day when insurance companies were small, local firms -- not the major businesses they have become. "Insurance companies, especially health insurers, are national players," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). "They operate in states across the country. And they don't have a mere presence in these states; they dominate the market."

"We all pay the cost for this," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), whose committee has held a hearing on the issue, and said he would seek to add the exemption repeal as an amendment to the Senate health-care bill when in reaches the chamber floor, likely in early November.

"Patients pay the cost. Doctors pay the cost. And this is one of the very few industries that's used its clout and its money and its lobbying to keep this exemption," said Leahy.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...ml?hpid=topnews

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:dance: :dance:

How did these c-cks-ck-rs every get away with such immunity?


According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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The legislation would repeal portions of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act that allows states to regulate health insurance providers without federal intervention.

Might just have a few unintended consequences, that I like, for instance, no more zone exclusions or pricing. That just might do more to cut insurance premiums than the proposed healthcare legislation. However, with such a mix of Federal and State regulations that will have to be rewritten, I see this being tied up in the courts for years.

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The legislation would repeal portions of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act that allows states to regulate health insurance providers without federal intervention.

Might just have a few unintended consequences, that I like, for instance, no more zone exclusions or pricing. That just might do more to cut insurance premiums than the proposed healthcare legislation. However, with such a mix of Federal and State regulations that will have to be rewritten, I see this being tied up in the courts for years.

That's why they call it America.


According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 400 richest American households earned a total of $US138 billion, up from $US105 billion a year earlier. That's an average of $US345 million each, on which they paid a tax rate of just 16.6 per cent.

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