Medical Malpractice Insurers Could Keep Antitrust Protection

February 18, 2010

Democrats appear to be removing medical malpractice insurers from a bill to eliminate the antitrust exemption for health insurers in the McCarran-Ferguson Act.

According to Politico.com, Democratic aides in the House said the final antitrust bill likely will not include new restrictions on medical malpractice insurers.

The initial version of the House bill, introduced by Democrats — Reps. Betsy Markey of Colorado and Thomas Perriello of Virginia — aimed to give the federal government more authority to oversee health insurers as well as companies that offer medical malpractice insurance.

Insurance lobbies oppose repeal of the antitrust exemption. Jimi Grande, senior vice president of Federal and Political Affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said his association is aware of the plan to drop medical malpractice from the legislation, but cautions that the issue is not over, yet.

“Many elected officials are confused and don’t actually understand how McCarran works,” Grande told Insurance Journal. “It is a very narrow antitrust exemption and it was created to foster competition.”

Grande says the antitrust protection given to insurers has worked. “There are more than 3,000 P/C insurers in America,” he said.

Insurers believe removing the medical liability component from the health care bill makes sense, and caution legislators that removing the exemption for health insurers would lead to higher costs for consumers.

“[T]he repeal attempt is misguided and doesn’t even address the issue those pushing it purport to care about — eliminating this exemption will not create more competition and magically lower the cost of health care,” Grande said. “It will burden and confuse consumers and likely result in less competition in the marketplace.”

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