Federal bill would drop antitrust exemption for health, malpractice insurers

A new bill has been introduced in the Senate that would repeal the antitrust exemption health and medical insurers currently enjoy.  The bill, which is backed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would bring these insurers under the watchful eyes of the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice. Leahy told CQ Politics that the bill would make the insurance industry more competitive, and possibly drive down costs.

The bill would take away the exemption in cases where the insurers had committed serious violations of antitrust law, such as big rigging and price fixing. However, it would leave states' ability regulate insurance companies in place.

Provider groups are likely to be happy with the bill, especially the American Medical Association, which has been engaged for years in battles to break up what it sees as unfair levels of market control by health plans. The AMA, not to mention hospital groups and other providers, have long argued that small numbers of insurers control too many markets.

To learn more about this bill:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece