February 23rd, 2010
02:10 PM ET
13 years ago

White House: Obama backs repeal of health insurer antitrust exemption

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama strongly supports a repeal of the antitrust exemption currently granted to health insurance companies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Liberal Democrats in particular have pushed for a repeal of the exemption - which has been in place since the end of World War II - in order to inject new competition into the health care industry while lowering consumer costs.

The announcement came as the White House sought to rally key Democrats around Obama's new compromise reform plan before a high stakes televised health care summit with congressional Republicans on Thursday.

"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. Today there are no rules outlawing bid rigging, price fixing, and other insurance company practices that will drive up health care costs and often drive up their own profits as well."

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 more expansive House version of the health care bill passed last year would have removed the anti-trust 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 compromise proposal 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 - 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.

Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. An 8 year old ELEPHANT dung heap, does not transform into compost in just 1 year!

    Who is really a "socialist"?

    Check out your latest SS benefits statement for the answer.

    After paying into SS for 42 years I have paid 84,223, my employers paid 84,378.

    After paying into Medicare for 42 years, I have paid 19,928, my employers paid 19,928.

    If I retire at 66 the full payment will last exactly 6 years and 9 months and then I will have exhausted my “paid” amount. After that, I will be a “socialist” living off the backs of others after their “wealth has been redistributed”.

    If I should get ill at 65 then the 40K could be used up in one quick nursing home stay. I am a “socialist” times 2, living off the fruits of others.

    So for all the old tea baggers claiming they “paid” for SS and Medicare, you are moronic liars. You partially paid for it but unless you die within 7 years, then you too are a free-loading “socialist”, except you have the free time to travel the country by bus!

    To all the Reds that want “small government”, should we euthanize those that have exceeded the “paid” amount into both “entitlement“ programs?

    The “compassionate conservative” would respond with YES!

    Who knew the answer to the "christian" WWJD? would be death to all old and infirmed "socialists".

    February 23, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. marlene

    This is good news. Health companies collecting billions in profits should support the programs of government by paying taxes ( or as much as other companies do). Marlene in Mich

    February 23, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    First sensible idea Obama has ever had about health care.

    February 23, 2010 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Mike in MN

    Obama continues to play the American voters for fools on a number of issues, most recently health care reform.
    Obama grand stands about creating a new fed agency to review rate increases by insurance compainies and to block them if they are excessive. He acts like this is a new idea. But voters know the states already do this. So for the sake of political grand standing, Obama wants to waste borrowed tax payer money to create a new fed agencey to duplicte what the states already do. Government, government and more government. There is no level of government and spending that is too much for Obama.
    And Obama tweaks the all ready rejected Senate bill a bit and pretends it is something new. He takes out a couple of the behind closed door deals like the Nebraska deal and the deal to exempt unions from the cadillac tax. But voters had already rejected both the House and Senate bills before these deals were added. The rest of the terrible bill is still there.
    So Obama will go into the so called bipartisan summit insisting on pushing forward the bills already soundly rejected by a majority of voters. Republicans will lay out their ideas and Obama may offer to add a few to his bill but take nothing out. The result will be no deal.
    Obama will tell voters the Republican ideas do not go far enough. Voters may agree, but they also have decided long ago that Obamacare goes too far with too much government, too many mandates, too many taxes increases, too much cut from Medicare and too much cost.
    What the voters want is for Congress to start over and come up with something in beteween Obamacare and the Republican plan.
    As long as Obama will not give up his big government plan, voters will not support it.

    February 23, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Ron

    Repeal of the anti-trust exemption is long overdue. Can't wait to hear why the republicans think it should remain.

    February 23, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Hmm, why did they even have an anti-trust exemption in the first place?
    Good job Obama, you make me proud.

    February 23, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Bob in Pa

    Its time to recall this communist from office. He is just aching to have evrything made so expensive that companies will fold leaving only the government to run them.

    February 23, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  8. Jamie

    Hallelujah, go for the jugular!!!! This is the exact step that should be taken!

    February 23, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. Doug - Dallas

    The insurance companies are using their antitrust exemption to screw the American public while they cry poor mouth all the way to the bank. They don't deserve the exemption and if this country was smart we would put in a public plan which would lower costs, give us better coverage and put the health insurance companies out of business.

    February 23, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  10. Mike in MN

    Obama and the Democrats are full of bluster on passing health care reform.
    They know a majority of voters have soundly rejected their bills.
    They were working on merging the two bills into a single bill, with much difficulty I might add, before Brown won in Mass.
    Then they said they should wait to pass it until after Brown is seated, knowing full well he ran on the promise to be the 41st vote to kill and and to work to start over on a new bill.
    Now that Brown is seated Democrats again threaten to pass it using reconciliation if Repulbicans do not vote for it.
    If they did not care about Republican votes, they could have passed it before Brown was seated or anytime after.
    Why the big fuss and bluster if they can pass it without Repubicans? If the bills are so wonderful, why even bother sharing the credit with Republican by getting them to vote for it? Go ahead and take all the credit themselves.
    I don't believe the Democrats have enough votes to pass it without some Republican votes. It is all bluster.

    February 23, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Its about time.Time to do as Teddy Rooesvelt did and bring out the big stick and take names later.

    February 23, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. Wil

    Well we all know that if the President is for it the republicans will be against it.

    February 23, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Obama mama

    Is this the reform that republicans have been asking for that allows companies to compete across state borders...? Insurance costs will go down if there is REAL competition.*

    I'd like more information on this.

    *Government healthcare isn't real competition.

    February 23, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  14. Monkey wrench

    The more expansive House version of the health care bill passed last year would have removed the anti-trust exemption, while the Senate's version would not.
    Sure don't hear too awful much about the House bill that both parties worked pretty hard on together to correct the true issues of health insurance. Instead we got Harry, Nancy and Comrade Obama's government take over bill shoved up our butts. This Administration is a train wreck and we are all passengers on the train, what a bunch of inept idiots we have serving us in Washington DC, that includes both sides of the aisle! I believe it is time to vote out ALL INCUMBENTS and find the level headed Americans willing to step up that understand what our Constitution and Freedom from big government and mega corporations is really about. If you're not part of the cure, you're probably a politician!

    February 23, 2010 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. If I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    Health insurance premium increases of 37% and even 50+% send a message that it is time to change the playing field.

    February 23, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  16. Carmelle

    Great news. But that needs to be coupled with national exchange, not the state exchange he offered in his bill yesterday. That would create the competition which will lower the costs without a need of a PO

    February 23, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. aproudmemberoftheunpatrioticmob

    You just got to love liberals and liberal think. finally they get a market approach and then talk about price controls and shackling the ability of the health insurance companies to make a profit, kinda like the ............communists????? Exactly.

    February 23, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  18. notfooledbydistractions

    Good. The anti-trust exemption should be the first thing to go.

    February 23, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  19. Jim

    I don't see what rationale there ever was for giving insurance companies an exemption to anti-trust laws other than they bought off a bunch of politicians.

    February 23, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. ran

    Good and it is about time. What is really needed and at some point all will see that single payer non-profit universal health care is the only true way to provide health care in this country.

    February 23, 2010 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    Heck yes!! Now thats what we have been waiting for Mr. President. The insurance pirates have not played nice all along and they forgot they had all of these special perks allowing them to rape the American public at will, take their perks away and see if they will play a little nicer.

    February 23, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    Now we'll see if the GOP really actually believes in a free and open capitalist market. The way the insurance industry operates today, because antitrust laws do not apply to protect against anti-competetive practices, IS NOT A FREE AND OPEN MARKET. If you don't understand that health insurers (and other types) are capable of creating "industry standards" that drive up costs and consistenlly expand their profit margins, then you should shoosh...it's the very first step to understanding what's wrong with our health care system. They've been doing it for 60+ years and the whole time the antitrust laws did not apply and yet the GOP kept telling us "just leave it alone and it will magically fix itself like everything in the economy does according to our ideology." [Insert game show "Wrong Answer" buzzer]

    February 23, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. Dar

    Sounds as if Odumbo is now trying the ol two step. If he cant have every thing in one bill he will make up a bunch of little bills that he thinks no one will notice. WRONG Odumbo, we are now watching evrything you do because we all know you are a lier and a theft and the American people wont stand for any BS any longer.

    Watch him folks, if he cant shove the whole thing down our throat all at once he going to try and feed us little bites untill he gets what he wants. Control of your lives, big goverment and God knows what else.

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    February 23, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  24. Jeff of Peoria

    I'm a health insurance guy and rate group health plans everyday. I can't tell you how many times I get the same rates from 5 or 6 different insurance companies and that is NOT RIGHT.

    This would be a good start – This will initially raise rates but will then lower them in the long run.

    There is a way around this though and that is by requiring that we AS insurance agents collect the previous coverage and bill.

    February 23, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. Dale

    I agree. Why are we giving them anti-trust exemption anyway?

    February 23, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
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