The U.S. House of Representatives today voted 406-19 to pass H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, introduced by Congressman Tom Perriello and Congresswoman Betsy Markey. The two-page bill repeals the special antitrust exemption that health insurance companies have enjoyed since 1945, and will restore competition to the health insurance market to promote affordability, improved quality, and greater consumer choice.
“Today, Washington finally took a stand for patients, for the free market, and for common-sense, bipartisan principles of fairness. Today, we sent a simple message: health insurance companies must compete for business like everyone else,” said Rep. Perriello. “Working and middle-class families are sick and tired of getting nickel and dimed by these companies while they rack up billions in profit and enjoy their monopoly protection. I applaud my colleagues for standing on the side of consumers over the health insurance companies.”
“I’m proud of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for standing up for a common sense bill,” said Rep. Markey. “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.”
Under the legislation, health insurers will no longer be protected from liability for antitrust practices like price fixing, dividing up market territories, or bid rigging. In the last 14 years, there have been 400 mergers among health care insurers so that 95% of health insurance markets are “highly concentrated,” which means consumers have little or no choice between insurers. During the past decade while this concentrated market has enjoyed its exemption from antitrust regulation, health insurance premiums have doubled.
Repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies has been endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the National Farmers Union, among others. The Obama Administration also released a strong statement of support yesterday saying, “This bill will benefit the American health care consumer by ensuring that competition has a prominent role in reforming health insurance markets throughout the nation.”
Watch Rep. Perriello urging support for passage of this bill on the House floor:
Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act
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