A Window into Washington: Report on Hearings for S. 1681 and H.R. 3596, Proposed Legislation to End Health Insurers' Antitrust Exemption

Overview

*Congress recently conducted hearings on proposed legislation that would repeal the insurance exemption from the federal antitrust laws, the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, as it relates to the health insurance industry.

*Witnesses at the hearings articulated different perspectives on the potential repeal. At one end of the spectrum, there was a call to end the exemption and increase federal oversight of the health insurance industry for the benefit of both competition and consumers. In contrast, at least one witness suggested that repeal would at best maintain status quo in the market or, worse, deter activities that enhance industry efficiency.

*On October 21, the House Judiciary Committee voted 20-9 to approve legislation aimed at repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurers. The Committee endorsed a middle-of-the-road approach by including safe harbors that permit joint action for data pooling and actuarial calculations.

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