House Panel Votes to Strip Insurance's Antitrust Exemption
by Jonathan Singer, Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 11:59:31 AM EDT
The House Judiciary Committee throws down the gauntlet.
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted to repeal the insurance industry's federal antitrust exemption in a move aimed at spurring competition and controlling the cost of premiums.
The panel, in a 20-9 vote, approved legislation to ban companies from engaging in price fixing, bid rigging and market allocation. The measure may be combined with a proposed overhaul of the health-care system the House is considering.
Three House Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of revoking the exemption, which dates back to 1945. Two of these Republicans represent marginal districts -- Dan Lungren of California 3, which narrowly backed Barack Obama in 2008, and Tom Rooney of Florida 16, which was represented by a Democrat in the previous Congress -- perhaps explaining why they would join the Democrats on this measure. However, the other, Louis Gohmert, represents a district in Texas with a Cook PVI rating of R+21. What's more, he traditionally votes extremely conservatively, suggesting, perhaps, that there could be more widespread support for stripping the insurance companies' antitrust exemption than one might otherwise expect.
Regardless of this measure eventually becomes a part of overall healthcare reform legislation, it does give those in favor of reform important leverage in negotiations and deliberations -- including over whether or not to include a robust public option.