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Senate introduces bill to amend McCarran-Ferguson Act

December 19, 2018

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate Dec. 19 to amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which would authorize the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to enforce federal antitrust laws against health insurance companies.

S 3782, the Comprehensive Health Insurance Reform Act, was introduced by Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. It is nearly identical to the House version of the bill, which the ADA strongly supported. The House bill was introduced in January 2017 by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and passed the House in March of that year.

The ADA, which has advocated for repeal of the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act antitrust exemption for the health insurance industry for more than 20 years, applauded the Senate introduction of the bill. 

“If health insurance companies had to observe the antitrust laws when setting rates and designing coverage, they would have to compete more aggressively with each other for both individual customers and purchasers of large group policies,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Cole, ADA president. “Currently, when health insurers overcharge or take advantage of consumers, the consumers’ only course of action is to file a complaint with their state’s insurance commissioner, who often have very limited resources and rarely act.”

S 3782 calls for the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to enforce the federal antitrust laws against health insurance companies engaged in anticompetitive conduct but does not interfere with the states’ ability to enforce their own regulations, antitrust statues and consumer protection laws.

In a Dec. 19 member e-mail blast, Montana Dental Association Executive Director Al Garver and the ADA thanked MDA leadership and Montana dentists for their support in getting a Senate version of McCarran-Ferguson reform introduced by Sen. Daines.

Follow all of the ADA's advocacy efforts at ADA.org/advocacy.