February 24th, 2010
04:17 PM ET
4 years ago

House votes to repeal antitrust exemption for health insurers

Washington (CNN) - The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to repeal the antitrust exemption currently granted to health insurance companies.

The vote was 406-19 to repeal the exemption, which has been in place since the end of World War II. The 19 who voted against the repeal are all Republicans.

Liberal Democrats have said a repeal would help inject new competition into the health care industry while reducing consumer costs.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday that President Barack Obama strongly supports the repeal. "At its core, health reform is all about ensuring that American families and businesses have more choices, benefit from more competition and have greater control over their own health care," Gibbs said.

"Repealing this exemption is an important part of that effort.

Gibbs said the president is not seeking repeal of the exemption in lieu of broader changes to the insurance market. "This is a complementary step along the way," he told reporters.

The debate in the House on Wednesday included a colorful moment between Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, and Republicans.

"You guys have chutzpah," Weiner told Republicans during the debate.

"The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry," he said, drawing the objections of Republicans, who asked that his words be stricken from the record.

Weiner then asked for unanimous consent to replace his words and said, "Every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry."

The Republicans objected again, prompting Weiner to rescind his words.

The House version of the health care bill passed last year would have removed the antitrust exemption, while the Senate's version would not.

Advocates of an exemption repeal say that the exemption has allowed health insurance companies to essentially divide the country into geographic zones. They argue the companies benefit from what amounts to local monopolies.

Industry defenders, in turn, point out that insurers are still subject to state regulations. They claim the impact of an exemption repeal is overblown.

Administration officials and their allies in Congress have taken an increasingly tough stance against the unpopular insurance industry. Among other things, Obama's latest proposal for health care reform would give the federal government new authority to block excessive rate hikes by health insurers.

Specifically, Obama's plan calls for the secretary of health and human services to work with a seven-member board made up of doctors, economists, and consumer and insurance representatives to review premium hikes.

The board - to be known as the Health Insurance Rate Authority - would provide an annual report to recommend to states whether certain rate increases should be approved, although the secretary could overrule state insurance regulators.

Updated: 4:36 p.m.


Filed under: Health care • House • Popular Posts
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. hadelaide

    Let's see the senate pick this up and not relegate it to the back burner like the other 290 bills waiting for action.

    February 24, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. sharon

    with competition there will be lower prices......

    The Expensive Health Care Insurances..........better start to lower their prcies............or not.

    People will go where they can afford.

    February 24, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  3. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Now you're talking. It is time for a reality check for the health insurance company and their pre existing condition nightmare and denying coverage when people need it most.

    I am sure the republican senate will bury this like they did the other 290 bills, quite a few were bipartisan, that the house passed last year.

    February 24, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  4. John

    It's about time!

    February 24, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. Terry from West Texas

    But the Senate will not, on a straight party line vote, if they ever vote, which the Senate will not. Anti-Trust and Anti-Christ have about the same meaning to Libertarians, NeoCons, and Corporatists.

    Any Conservative who votes for an anti-trust bill may as well resign and move to France. His career is over.

    Remember, you read it first here.

    February 24, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. Ellie

    It's about time our politicians WORK for the American people.

    February 24, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. Mike in MN

    Looks like the Republicans will support a bill when it makes sense.
    No how about Obama killing Obamacare and starting over and having Congress write a true bipartisan bill that makes sense and a majority of voters will support and accept.

    February 24, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. Papasan in AZ

    Ouch! I can hear the share holders screaming from here...

    February 24, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. Jay

    The Congress actually did something that benefits the maximum number of people? Wow they must have seen what the premiums of sombody they actually care for have risen to.

    February 24, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Good start. I hope the DOJ antitrust division will get on it soon. (And, while they're at it, they really ought to take another look at Microsoft...)

    Now it's time to eliminate interstate restrictions on the insurance companies.

    February 24, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Center left-out

    Bravo! To the House. Now it will go die in the broken Senate. President Obama should use an executive order to end the anti-trust for Insurance Co.

    February 24, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. Danny

    "Liberal Democrats have said a repeal would help inject new competition into the health care industry while lowering consumer costs."

    Since it will encourage competition Conservative Republicans should be all for it too, right?

    February 24, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. Jackalope

    Excellent! It's the first step toward busting up the insurance cartels!

    February 24, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Vic of New York

    This is a good start.

    Now let's see if "The Party of NO" is willing to back it in the Senate, or whether this will just go into the dust bin with the other 278 bills Senate Republicans are currently sitting on.

    February 24, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    THANK YOU! Insurance companies were the ONLY business in the U.S. that had the privilege of this exemption!

    NOW..... Congress pass the law, that requires that they do not discriminate because of preexisting conditions. Its a matter of life & death!

    February 24, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Stop taking my taxes

    Finally the democants have come on board now get rid of Tort reform and we will get close. Ask any Dr. and they will tell you that along with keeping the goverment out and all of there paper work this is the way to cut cost.

    February 24, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. jules sand-perkins

    This positive action is an example of REASONABLE health-care reform.
    If President Obama had set out to REFORM the system with actions like this, he would already have a bill in place.

    February 24, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  18. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    When will you right wingnuts face facts? 95% of the American people received a TAX CUT under Obama, on April 1, 2009? The biggest part of our debt came from unfunded mandates, unnecessary wars, tax cuts for the wealthy, and bank bailouts during the reign of the previous occupant of the white house. Republicans have been failing America for 40 years. In the words of G.H.W. Bush, ". . . read my lip, no new taxes. . ." Repubs lied then, and continue to lie today.

    February 24, 2010 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  19. Nicole

    Now it's getting interesting. Let's see the insurance companies start to compete with each other once other regulation reforms are put in place. This will bring down the cost of care regardless of what the industry says.

    February 24, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. WAW

    "The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry," Finally, a member of Congress with guts to tell the truth! Congrats Rep. Weiner! We need more like you.

    February 24, 2010 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  21. Scott, Tucson

    How about Tort Reform, that can go a long ways too in helping to reduce the cost of health care but alas, obama is not about to go against the lawyers.

    February 24, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. Chandler02

    "The Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry".... SO TRUE!! But I would have to add there are a few democrats in the Senate that could be added to that list as well!

    February 24, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. Mike - Las Vegas

    The Rushpublican Insurance lapdogs may object but they didn't deny it either. Good little obedient puppies, go lick your master' feet.

    February 24, 2010 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  24. Raymond from Atlanta

    Rats jumping off sinking ship.

    February 24, 2010 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  25. Moar like RepubliKKKcans

    Wow! Even Republicans realized the that exemption has done nothing but help drive up costs.

    For once I can clap my hands for the Republican Party.

    February 24, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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