Congress passes Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act

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Washington — The Senate on Dec. 22 voted to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson antitrust exemption for health insurance companies by passing HR 1418, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act.

The House passed the bill on Sept. 21. At press time, President Donald J. Trump was expected to sign the bill into law.

The ADA has been a “longtime advocate of this bill that would reform the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 to ensure that health insurance companies are subject to the same federal antitrust laws that nearly all other industries must comply with in the U.S.,” the Association wrote in an email to dental leaders.

In the email, the ADA also praised Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., for leading the bill in the Senate.

“Our bipartisan bill will allow for greater transparency and oversight into the health insurance industry and help make health insurance more affordable [for Americans] across the country. I look forward to this commonsense bill being signed into law,” said Sen. Daines in a news release.

According to the release, the bill “amends the McCarran-Ferguson Act to restore the application of federal antitrust laws to the health insurance industry, but does not otherwise interfere with or impact the authority of state authorities to regulate health insurance provided under the act.”

“This bill will help address instances of artificially higher premiums, unfair insurance restrictions, and harmful policy exclusions,” the release concluded.

The ADA also thanked Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., for getting the bill passed in the House. Rep. Gosar, who is also an ADA member dentist, has been the primary and leading congressional advocate for the bill’s passage since being elected in 2010.

The bill was supported by other dental organizations, including the Academy of General Dentistry, American Student Dental Association, American Dental Education Association, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association of Endodontists, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, American Association of Women Dentists, American Society of Dental Anesthesiologists, American College of Prosthodontists, National Dental Association, and the Organized Dentistry Coalition. Other health care organizations were also in support, including the American Hospital Association, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, American Academy of Neurology, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Surgeons, National Community Pharmacists Association, and the American Optometric Association.

The ADA noted that many consumer groups also advocated for HR 1418.

“Consumer Reports has been urging Congress to remove this ill-conceived and anti-consumer antitrust exemption for decades,” said George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports in a news release. “We are thrilled to see it finally happening.”

The ADA concluded the email by noting the bill would not have achieved passage without the efforts of the ADA’s volunteer leadership, “most notably” from the ADA’s Council on Government Affairs and American Dental Political Action Committee, as well as the efforts of state dental society executive directors who wrote letters and did targeted outreach to their lawmakers.

“For leaders and contributors to ADPAC, this was a culmination of years of dentists lobbying and participating in high-level political activity,” ADA said. “Most importantly, dentists engaged in grassroots activism, recently sending over 21,000 communications to legislators” on this issue.

For more information on the ADA’s advocacy efforts, visit