Plan to Take Away Insurers' Anti-trust Exemption Removed from Senate Bill

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media , November 23, 2009

Health insurers can breathe easier. The Senate health reform bill no longer includes a provision to wipe out health insurance companies' anti-trust exemption.

The proposed change would have stripped away insurers' anti-trust exemption, which is part of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, a 1945 law that allows states to regulate insurers without federal government interference.

Democratic leaders pushed the idea of taking away insurers' anti-trust exemption after America's Health Insurance Plans released a report last month that said Democrats' health reform proposals would increase health costs. Health reform proponents bashed AHIP for the report and questioned the findings.

Meanwhile, others have charged that the Democrats' plan to remove the exemption was a political ploy and a possible bargaining tool against the health insurance industry.

Robert Zirkelbach, director of strategic communications at AHIP, says health insurance is one of the most regulated industries in the country and McCarran-Ferguson Act "has nothing to do with the issue of competition within the health insurance industry."

"The focus on this issue was nothing more than a political ploy designed to distract attention away from the real issue of rising healthcare costs," he says.

Les Masterson is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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