Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House Passes Repeal of Antitrust Exemption for Health Insurance

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The business of health insurance would no longer enjoy the McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption, under a provision in the proposed “Protecting Access to Healthcare Act” or “PATH Act,” which passed the House of Representatives on March 22. The McCarran-Ferguson exemption would continue to apply to life insurance, annuities, property and casualty insurance, and other non-health types of insurance.

The proposed PATH Act (H.R. 5), which would repeal portions of the two-year-old health care overhaul, was amended to include the proposed “Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act of 2012.” The amendment, contained in Title IV of the PATH Act, was introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R, Ariz.).

“[I]t is time for this exemption to be repealed so that we can empower health insurance companies to compete more aggressively . . .” said Congressman Gosar, who has been a practicing dentist for over 25 years.

Ban on Class Actions

The amendment would prohibit federal antitrust class action suits against health insurers. “Frivolous lawsuits cause defensive medicine that drive up the cost of medicine, hinder access to specialty care for patients, and often enrich trial attorneys,” according to Rep. Gosar. Congressman Gosar serves as the vice chairman of a health care subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The ban on class actions has been criticized by some House Democrats. "If you eliminate class actions, you have effectively destroyed the McCarran-Ferguson repeal," decried Rep. John Conyers (D, Mich.).

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