Bennet: Repeal Insurance Antitrust Exemptions in Health Care Reform

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, along with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called on President Obama, Majority Leader Reid, and Speaker Pelosi to request the "inclusion of language that repeals the Federal antitrust exemption for health insurers and medical malpractice insurers in the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that is signed into law."

In the letter, Bennet and Leahy note that the states, which are responsible for regulating the insurance industry, often lack the time and resources to properly fulfill this role, leaving the private stakeholders in this field effectively unchecked. With the repeal of the antitrust exemption, this would no longer be the case.

"While there are divergent views on the best way to introduce choice and competition into [the] health insurance market, we can surely agree that health and medical malpractice insurers should not be allowed to collude to set prices and allocate markets," the Senators write. "This reform is long overdue and the time to act is now."

Other signatories included Senators John F. Kerry, John D. Rockefeller IV, Joseph I Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Russell D. Feingold, Ron Wyden, Mary L. Landrieu, Charles E. Schumer, Maria Cantwell, Frank Lautenberg, Bernard Sanders, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse, Roland Burris, Edward Kaufman, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and Al Franken.

The full text of the letter is include below:

Dear President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid:

We write to reiterate our call for inclusion of language that repeals the Federal antitrust exemption for health insurers and medical malpractice insurers in the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that is signed into law. There is simply no reason for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies to be exempt from Federal laws prohibiting price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation. These acts hurt consumers, drive up health care costs, and should be prohibited in the health insurance industry, as they are in virtually every other industry.

For nearly 65 years, the insurance industry has been exempt from Federal antitrust laws. Regulation of the insurance industry has been left with the states, which often lack the time and resources to effectively investigate antitrust conspiracies. Thus, the competitive activities of health insurers and medical malpractices insurers remain effectively unchecked. While there are divergent views on the best way to introduce choice and competition into health insurance market, we can surely agree that health and medical malpractice insurers should not be allowed to collude to set prices and allocate markets.

The House-passed health care legislation, H.R. 3962, included a repeal of the health insurer antitrust exemption. Twenty-three Senators cosponsored our amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to repeal this antitrust exemption for health and medical malpractice insurers. Regrettably, there was no opportunity for it to be offered during Senate debate.

This reform is long overdue and the time to act is now. We look forward to working with you to ensure that repeal of the antitrust exemption for health insurers and medical malpractice insurers is included in the final health insurance reform bill that is signed into law.