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Gesture politics: Repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurers

By Michelle Malkin  •  February 25, 2010 09:33 AM

Here’s the roll call vote in the House last night to repeal a longstanding antitrust exemption for health insurers.

So, how exactly does this help families struggling with health insurance costs?

Not much.

USA Today makes the gesture politics clear:

“I’m proud of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for standing up for a common sense bill,” Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., said in a statement after the vote. “Long ago, the insurance industry got a special deal from Washington. Big health insurance companies could conspire with each other to fix prices, divide territories and never be punished for it. It’s wrong, and this bill fixes it–once and for all.”

But it’s not clear that was happening in a widespread way. In a report last year, the non-partisan partisan Congressional Budget Office wrote that the provision “would apply to a small number of offenders.” In another report, the CBO predicts that “implementing those provisions would have no significant effects on either the federal budget or the premiums that private insurers charged for health insurance.”

In a statement, Karen Ignagni, president of the insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the bill attempts to “solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The point of this Demcare “reform” isn’t actual reform. It’s all about the demagoguery.

Via Kaiser News:

Roll Call: The vote “split the House Republican leadership: Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and a small band of conservatives voted to preserve the exemption, while Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and the bulk of the Republican Conference backed the measure. Democrats unanimously supported the measure, with a parade of endangered freshmen coming to the floor to extol the measure as a common-sense way to increase competition and fight higher health insurance rates. … And some Republicans who opposed the measure, including Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.), warned it could raise premiums instead of lowering them because it would expose insurance companies to the costs of antitrust lawsuits” (Dennis, 2/24).

National Underwriter, an insurance trade journal, adds, “The bill would repeal the antitrust exemption afforded the business of health insurance – but not the business of medical malpractice insurance – by the McCarran-Ferguson Act.” An insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the repeal ” is likely to do more harm than good” (Postal, 2/24).

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