A Last-Minute Push to End Insurers’ Anti-Trust Exemption
A group of powerful Senate Democrats is urging leadership today to repeal the federal anti-trust exemption that insurance companies have enjoyed for more than six decades. In a letter to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the Democrats argue that state regulators simply “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.
They should have addressed their concerns to Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Why? Well, the House health-reform bill already includes a repeal of the anti-trust exemption, and the Senate bill would have, except that Reid was forced to scrap it to satisfy Nelson, a former insurance industry executive.
Thursday’s letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Pat Leahy (Vt.), John Kerry (Mass.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Joe Lieberman (Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Russ Feingold (Wis.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Roland Burris (Ill.), Ed Kaufman (Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Michael Bennet (Col.) and Al Franken (Minn.).
There are some powerful folks on that list, which represents nearly a third of the Democratic caucus. Cruelly, however, it just takes a single “no” vote from Nelson to sink the entire bill. That means that if Nelson insists that the provision is out, then the provision will be out.