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President Obama and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have called for “choice and competition” as part of health care reform. However, the health insurance industry has been given immunity from the federal anti-trust laws under the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. Without Congressional repeal of this Act, Americans will not have real “choice and competition” because the insurance industry will continue to operate outside the free market.
In 2007, a bipartisan coalition of Senators, including Sens. Harry Reid, Arlen Specter, Patrick Leahy, and Trent Lott, presented the Insurance Industry Competition Act, which sought to repeal McCarran-Ferguson. The House also presented companion legislation at the same time. These Congressional representatives spoke out against the blatant collusive and non-competitive actions of the insurance industry in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This bill, however, was not passed, but Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) has introduced a similar bill this year, which is currently stuck in committee.
Real Health Care Reform requires choice and competition, and repealing McCarran-Ferguson is part of fostering this competition. Like every other industry in America, the health care insurance industry should be required to abide by our federal anti-trust laws and regulations.