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Antitrust exemption outdated, ADA tells Senate

April 18, 2013

By Craig Palmer, ADA News staff

Washington—The Association urged Senate support for legislation “eliminating the unwarranted antitrust exemption that grants health insurers special status and permits them to ignore the competitive rules that apply to every other business in the United States.”

Legislation offered in the House by dentist/Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), H.R. 911, would amend the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act with respect to the business of health insurance, including dental benefit plans. The McCarran-Ferguson law exempts the health insurance industry from antitrust laws.

That law is outdated, the Association told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights in written testimony offered for the record of an April 16 hearing on “Oversight of the Enforcement of the Antitrust Laws.”

“Whatever justification there may have been for the McCarran-Ferguson Act exemption originally, it serves no legitimate purpose today, especially because the insurance industry will be able to avail itself of the same 'safe harbors' that have been developed over the years and that are utilized by other businesses that are subject to the federal antitrust laws,” the Association said.

An amended McCarran-Ferguson Act “would enable both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to focus their attention on specific anticompetitive practices by insurers that may adversely affect patients and providers, thereby leveling the playing field and ensuring that providers and health plans are abiding by the same set of competitive rules,” the Association said.

The ADA expressed support for the approach taken in H.R. 911, “as it narrowly targets the health insurance industry.” The term “business of health insurance” as defined in H.R. 911 does not include the business of life insurance including annuities or the business of property or casualty insurance. H.R. 911 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. There is no companion Senate legislation.

The Association asked the Senate antitrust panel to support introduction of a bill in that chamber.