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Senate Dems Eye Repeal Of Health Insurers’ McCarran-Ferguson Antitrust Exemption

Posted  October 20, 2009

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are going after health and medical malpractice insurers after a leading industry group turned against the Senate Finance Committee’s version of health care reform… and the DOJ may not be far behind.

Last Tuesday, America’s Health Insurance Plans (“AHIP”), a trade group for health insurers, released a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report indicating that the Senate Finance Committee bill would raise insurance premiums.  Shortly after release of the report, however, PWC blunted the impact of its own report by issuing a statement that it had only been asked to focus on certain sections of bill – and none of the cost-saving measures.

On Wednesday, Chairman Pat Leahy (D.-Vt.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired a hearing on his legislation to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act’s exemption from the federal antitrust laws for health and medical malpractice insurers.  The hearing was scheduled prior to AHIP’s announcement, but the announcement clearly heightened the stakes at the hearing.

The written statements and webcast of the hearing can be found here.

Senate Majority Leader Reid testified at the hearing and strongly condemned the health insurers.  Several of the Democratic Senators on the Committee made similar comments and indicated that the partial McCarran-Ferguson repeal would likely be included in the final health care package.

Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Christine Varney also testified.  She did not explicitly endorse the bill, but she said that the Department of Justice generally disfavors antitrust exemptions and questioned whether the justifications for McCarran-Ferguson are still valid.

Our earlier post on this topic can be found here.

Tagged in: Antitrust Legislation,