The US House of Representatives voted Monday in favor of legislation that would amend the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act and restore the ability of the federal government to charge health insurers under antitrust laws.
This bill, HR 1418, is part of the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2019, which was cosponsored by dozens of Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan push to bring insurers under federal antitrust protections. It was first introduced in February 2019.
The Act states that restoring the application of “antitrust laws to the business of health insurance … protect[s] competition and consumers.” The McCarran-Ferguson Act allows for antitrust exemptions to insurance businesses and gives states the power to regulate such insurance, which took insurance companies out of the protections of antitrust acts like the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act.
Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced an identical bill in the Senate in February 2019. This bill, S 350, was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and has not yet had any other action.
As of August, as many as 12 million individuals had lost their employee-sponsored health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. House members supporting the bill are seeking to increase the protection of the insured by allowing insurance companies to be regulated more thoroughly. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the lead sponsor of HR 1418, stated while on the House floor that the exemption “drives up the cost and the availability is diminished for Americans” by allowing insurance companies to “collude,” and this bill helps to end such collusion.