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House Still Taking Aim at Insurers' Antitrust Exemption

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, February 3, 2010

While healthcare reform legislation waits on the sidelines as policymakers decide the next steps to take, a sliver of movement was seen on the House side Tuesday as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that work would begin to repeal the health insurer antitrust regulations. The vote could come as early as next week.

Last fall, both the House and Senate held committee hearings on whether to repeal the antitrust exemption that was part of the decades-old McCarran Ferguson Act. Democratic leaders had picked turned up the heat on the antitrust issue after America's Health Insurance Plans released a report that said the Democrats' health reform proposals would increase health costs.

Proponents of the repeal said that the action would drive insurance prices down in regions where one health insurer dominates. However, the insurers said that they already encountered tight regulation among state regulators.

The healthcare reform bill approved by the House in November had included a repeal of the act, but the reform bill approved by the Senate in December did not.

The action by Pelosi shows that Democrats could consider pulling apart some of the parts of the reform legislation that has popular approval. Since the Democrats had lost their supermajority in the Senate two weeks ago after a Republican upset, a number of House Democrats have gotten behind the idea of repealing the antitrust exemption—calling it a high priority.


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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