10.21.09

Leahy, Senate Leaders Announce Amendment To Promote Fair Competition Within Health Insurance Industry

WASHINGTON – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday joined with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to announce that he will offer the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act as an amendment to health insurance reform legislation.  The bill, which Leahy first introduced in September, promotes competition in the health insurance and medical malpractice insurance industries that will benefit consumers.  Providing antitrust exemptions for insurance companies has been anticompetitive and damaging to the American family and the American economy.

Jim Guest, a former Banking and Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of State and Secretary of Development and Community Affairs for the state of Vermont, and the current President and CEO of the Consumers Union, joined Leahy, Reid and Schumer at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“During the Senate’s debate on healthcare reform, I will offer as an amendment the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, which will eliminate the antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies and ensure health insurers compete rather than collude,” said Senator Leahy.  “The American people deserve reform that serves their needs, not the special interests of insurance companies.  Ending this cozy exemption is another way to strengthen consumer choice through a competitive marketplace.”

“There is no reason why insurance companies should have exemption from antitrust laws,” said Senator Reid. “It’s time to level the playing field for American health care consumers and make the insurance industry play by the same rules that other industries live by.  Chairman Leahy has been a tremendous leader on this issue of fairness in the insurance marketplace and I am looking forward to working with Senators Leahy and Schumer to pass this amendment.”

“The health insurance’s antitrust exemption is sort of an accident of American history,” said Senator Schumer.  “But today, with the health insurance industry one of the most highly concentrated in our entire economy, it is obsolete. We can’t pass effective health care reform if we don’t hold health insurance companies to the same standards as other American industries.”

“When it comes to competition, health insurance companies should not get a free pass,” said Guest.  “It’s bad for consumers, bad for patients and bad for taxpayers.”

On October 14, Leahy chaired a hearing examining legislation to repeal the federal antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies.  Leahy introduced the Health Insurance Antitrust Enforcement Act in September.  The bill would repeal the antitrust exemption.  Leahy has been a longtime leader in the Senate to repeal the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, and in the 110th Congress, introduced bipartisan legislation to fully repeal the Act.

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