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Public Statements

Letter To The Honorable Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and 21 Senators sent a letter on Wednesday to Senate Majority Harry Reid, pressing him to schedule a Senate vote on the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act. If enacted, the legislation would repeal the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the legislation last week by a vote of 406-19. Last week, the administration released a statement in support of the legislation.

"We write to urge you to bring H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, to the Senate floor for a vote," the letter said. "This bipartisan bill, which has the support of the Obama administration and passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 406-19, would repeal the exemption that health insurers currently enjoy from the antitrust laws. This is an important step toward bringing competition to the health insurance market, and would ensure that anticompetitive abuses such as price fixing and monopolization are policed in the health insurance industry."

A total of 22 Senators signed the letter: Leahy, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), and John Rockefeller (D-W.V.).

Leahy has been leading efforts in the Senate to repeal the health insurance industry's exemption from federal antitrust laws, which are designed to protect consumers. In September, he introduced the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act (S.1681). Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing in October to discuss repealing the exemption. Reid testified at the hearing. In December, Leahy filed the Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act as an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act is supported by the Consumer Federation of America, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Dental Association. Attorneys General from nine states sent a letter to Leahy in November indicating strong support for the measure.

The full text of the letter follows.

# # # # #

March 3, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader
S-221, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

We write to urge you to bring H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, to the Senate floor for a vote. This bipartisan bill, which has the support of the Obama administration and passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 406-19, would repeal the exemption that health insurers currently enjoy from the antitrust laws. This is an important step toward bringing competition to the health insurance market, and would ensure that anticompetitive abuses such as price fixing and monopolization are policed in the health insurance industry.

Federal oversight of competition in the health insurance industry is necessary to ensure that consumers are not paying higher prices as the result of anticompetitive conduct. Competition ensures that consumers will pay lower prices and receive more choices. Amid the greater healthcare debate, where opinions vary on the best way to bring competition to the health insurance industry, we can surely agree that health insurance companies should be subject to the same Federal laws prohibiting anticompetitive conduct that nearly every other industry follows.

This reform is long overdue, and we are pleased that the House voted in such an overwhelming manner to bring antitrust scrutiny to the health insurance industry. Last year, we cosponsored similar legislation in the Senate to repeal this Federal antitrust exemption for health insurers. We filed that legislation as an amendment to the Senate health insurance reform bill, but it was never called up for a vote. Now the time to act is upon us.

We encourage you to schedule a vote on this bipartisan legislation at the earliest opportunity.

Respectfully,

PATRICK LEAHY MICHAEL F. BENNET
United States Senator United States Senator

MARIA CANTWELL CHARLES E. SCHUMER
United States Senator United States Senator

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE RUSSELL D. FEINGOLD
United States Senator United States Senator

EDWARD E. KAUFMAN JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN
United States Senator United States Senator

AL FRANKEN BERNARD SANDERS
United States Senator United States Senator

RON WYDEN DIANNE FEINSTEIN
United States Senator United States Senator

FRANK LAUTENBERG CLAIRE MCCASKILL
United States Senator United States Senator

MARY L. LANDRIEU JOHN F. KERRY
United States Senator United States Senator

TOM UDALL KIRSTEN E. GILLIBRAND
United States Senator United States Senator

ARLEN SPECTER ROLAND BURRIS
United States Senator United States Senator

JIM WEBB JOHN ROCKEFELLER
United States Senator United States Senator


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