October 14, 2009
Price Fixing is Perfectly Legal…

…if you’re a health insurance company. Astonishing. Something else I unaccountably never knew:

As the debate over health care reform rages on, there’s been almost no attention to the fact that health and medical malpractice insurance companies since 1945 have been exempt from the federal antitrust laws aimed at keeping every other private market competitive. The McCarran-Ferguson Act has allowed insurance companies to dominate markets and reap enormous profits, according to several witnesses who testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning.

As Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) explained at the hearing, the health insurance industry — unlike any other private industry in the country — is allowed to engage in price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation, all of which would violate the law if any other sort of company did it. Last month Leahy introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009, which would repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance providers. Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) are co-sponsors.

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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at October 14, 2009 01:43 PM
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I want to support this legislation, but my enthusiasm evaporates when I read that the bill's co-sponsors include such names as Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and Arlen Specter. I haven't read the legislation and I don't know many details here, but I've been observing politics for a lotta years and I know those names and know who owns 'em. If Feinstein, Reid, Schumer, and Specter are for it, then the legislation is loaded with loopholes to protect the insurance industry.

Posted by: Helen on October 14, 2009 5:05 PM

I don't know, Helen. Leahy, Feingold and Franken are on board too, so maybe there's hope. Maybe even the presence of Schumer and Specter is a hopeful sign. Both are supreme opportunists; if they considered this bill to be in their own best long term interests, they would abandon Wall Street (or at least the insurance companies) in a New York minute. Let's hope that's what they do think, and that they're right.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on October 14, 2009 5:44 PM

I'd be interested in the legislative history of the bill. Who was responsible for letting that into the original anti-trust legislation and what was the rationale? When I get so disgusted with the present that I don't want to deal with it for a while, I look to the past to snap out of it and quickly realize that Howard Zinn is spot on about American history.

Posted by: Buck on October 14, 2009 7:50 PM
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