Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) today joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives to support legislation that will create greater competition in the health insurance market, and end the unfair antitrust advantage that health insurers have relied on to exorbitantly raise premium rates. H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, was approved by the House with a 406 to 19 vote.
"The passage of today's legislation is an important victory for hard working American families," said Rep. Baca. "For too long the health insurance industry has been allowed to play by a different set of rules. By repealing the blanket antitrust exemption given to insurance companies, this bill restores competition and transparency to the health market."
H.R. 4626 amends the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, which exempted the business of insurance from federal anti-trust laws, to repeal the blanket antitrust exemption afforded to health insurance companies. Removing this exemption will give antitrust enforcers at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission the authority to investigate any evidence of possible collusion within the health insurance industry. Under the provisions of today's legislation, health insurers will no longer be shielded from legal accountability for many of their unfair practices, including:
* Price fixing;
* Dividing up territories among themselves;
* Sabotaging their competitors in order to gain monopoly power, and other such anti-competitive practices.
Removing this antitrust exemption has been a bipartisan legislative priority for law enforcement groups and consumer advocates for more than two decades.
"With passage of this legislation -- we will finally have the enforcement and oversight tools necessary to rein in the recent price gouging we have seen for insurance premiums," concluded Rep. Baca. "With Anthem Blue Cross announcing rate increases as high as 39% for many California customers -- it is critical Congress and the President act to create fairness and competition in the market. Quality, affordable healthcare is a basic right every one deserves. Today's legislation moves our nation a step closer to achieving this goal."