By a vote of 406 to 19, the U.S. House has approved H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act.

The bill seeks to repeal the longstanding antitrust exemption that health insurance companies were granted by the McCarran-Ferguson Act.  Not surprisingly the vote is eliciting a strong response from the heath insurance industry.

“Health Insurers are already highly regulated and National Association of Insurance Commissioners has determined that anti-competitive behavior is not allowed,” Brett Lieberman, a spokesperson for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association tells Insurance Networking News. “We don’t think that this really addresses any of the major issues related to health care right now. We need to focus at the underlying costs and making health care more affordable.”

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) slammed the bill as “triumph of sound bites over substance,” and referenced studies that question the link between the antitrust exemption and the rising cost of health care. “The Congressional Budget Office has said that passage of this legislation will do nothing to reduce health care costs.”

The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) also expressed concern over the bill’s passage, noting that a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report confirmed the pro-competitive nature of the McCarran-Ferguson antitrust provisions.
“The IIABA is concerned that, at a time when small businesses across the country are struggling with skyrocketing health care costs, Congress is sidetracked on legislation that will do nothing to contain these costs or bend the cost curve,” Charles Symington, IIABA SVP of government affairs said in a statement.

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