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. Florence

    There are lots of Democrats who are also hand fed by the Insurance Companies. Just giving insurance companies more geographic area to roam doesn’t cut it. Public option is what we want and what we were promised to get during the campaign. None of these cat and mouse game will cut it Mr. President. We are smarter than that. Put down your fist and get us what you promised.

    February 24, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  2. A keen observer

    Why did Weiner rescind his words? The truth needs no defense!

    February 24, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. aware

    The alternative is a monstrous myth! :(

    February 24, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  4. ran

    Health care reform is on its way.

    By by to the gluttony insurance companies.

    Once we get the public option and people see just how much money will be saved from not having to pay multimillion $ salaries/bonuses to executives, dividends to shareholders, private jets for insurance executives or gold platted dinnerware for their boardrooms, single payer non-profit universal will not be far behind.

    Today's vote and tomorrows meeting, with either Republicans getting on board or reconciliation is used, will be the beginning of the end of our broken private insurance health care system.

    Our Government can if it wants to do right for its people.

    February 24, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. elaine

    An entire nation wonders why this wasn't the first thing done in regards to the year-long (so far) health care reform debate. This, above all else, seems to be the overriding linchpin of this whole debate. I am mostly agasp that this has just now been dealt with. I guess I shouldn't be so shocked, considering that our gay fellow Americans are still petitioning the government of the United States of America for equal treatment under the law. Common sense is crippled by religion and business interests infiltrating our system of government. I am not at all surprised that 19 Republican members of Congress think that it is a good ideal to let medical insurance companies monopolize the medical insurance market. They cry, "free market" when it serves the constituents who bankroll their campaigns. They abhor free market when it steps on the toes of other bankrollers. They are a strange lot that I have yet to fully figure out.

    February 24, 2010 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. abiodun

    About time!
    Some legislators want people to believe that buying health insurance across state lines will reduce costs.
    Why has this not reduced costs on car/home/etc. insurance?

    February 24, 2010 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  7. Angela7174

    Great news! It's about time!

    February 24, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  8. Lisa P

    The 19 who voted against the repeal are all Republicans...

    Why does this not surprise me?

    February 24, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Now let's hope that the Senate will quickly pass this much needed piece of legislation. Then the states Attorneys-General can start proceedings to rein-in the out-of-control insurance companies.
    Notice I said the states, because it should be their responsibility. Too many people are clamoring for the feds to do the states jobs, and at the same time whining about too much federal government.

    February 24, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Haha...the GOP painted themselves into a corner on this one. I'm sure it rankled for them to betray the insurance industry, but they brought it on themselves with all their "free market" talk in opposition to everything else Obama has tried to do to fix our health care system and address other issues.

    And you wonder why they were all jacking up their rates over teh past couple months? They're no different than the scumbag credit card companies. They get wind that their abuse of the consumer public is about to get stopped and they quickly try to slap us in the face one last time so it's grandfathered and not effected by the new legislation.

    February 24, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Lucullus

    Why in the name of God are these thieves exempted from the antitrust laws in the first place? Did someone just realize this or is it another case of greedy hypocritical republicans protecting their friends and spineless Democrates once again being timid bunnies? It's this sort of thing that destroys a person's faith in their country and it's leadership

    February 24, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  12. gwen from Ohio

    With a name like Weiner you have to have guts – thanks Rep. Weiner for standing up to these shameless republicans who will do nothing to help Americans just to get re-elected, but Americans are on to them and they aren't destroying Obama they are destroying themselves.!!

    February 24, 2010 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. Becca

    Bravo Weiner, now let's go after the Pharmaceutical companies.

    February 24, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  14. GI Joe

    That too will be stalled in the Senate until we get rid of some of the Party of No in november.

    Can hardly wait. True Independents are watching them hold up everything and we do NOT like the Party of No.

    February 24, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  15. Jane/Seattle

    This is a good move, finally!

    February 24, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. harold

    Something actually done for the people of the USA?.. Wow.....amazing..

    February 24, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  17. dbailey

    so where does it go now? to the Senate graveyard with the other 290 bills languishing in the Senate?

    February 24, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  18. J. Richter

    Why blame the Republicans when the country is half filled with morons. At this moment a group of completely deluded and the poor riled up with hate and misinformation are at this moment out picketing on behalf of the insurance industry against their own very interests.

    February 24, 2010 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  19. Deanna

    Could the tide finally be turning? The People's representatives have done their part. Now it's time for the Senate to decide who's side they're on. Will they continue appeasing the corporate-Dracula "person" that Reagan released from its crypt? The one that has been nourished and pampered by deregulation, subsidies, tax breaks and bail-outs for the past 30 years? The one the Supreme Court decreed has the rights but not the responsibilities of actual humans? Or will they remember that they represent a nation of, by and for living, breathing people?

    We'll see, maybe there's still hope, but I'm not holding my breath.

    February 24, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. sd

    Bipartisan support - That's wonderful :)

    February 24, 2010 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    Soooooo, today is the very first day the GOPers get to argue that leaving health care insurers and the health care industry alone would be allowing the "free market" an opportunity to fix them and actually be making an honest statement.

    Too bad they spent over half a century saying it before today.

    February 24, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  22. johnrj08

    Now watch our dysfunctional Senate find a way to keep this from happening. Between Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman and every Republican, it will never pass the Senate.

    February 24, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. NC

    Both parties working together I like it.

    February 24, 2010 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. Chuck Anaheim Ca.

    Way to go!! Rep Weiner I am glad someone told those thugs what most of us in this country say about them and many Dems every day.

    February 24, 2010 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Lets never forget the names of the 19 againt the bill.They cant hide in caves forever.

    February 24, 2010 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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