Health Care Debate Draws in Antitrust Reform
Proposal Still Protects Property and Casualty Insurers
Five major U.S. House and Senate committees have been working diligently to prepare health care reform legislation for congressional floor debate. Four major bills are in play. Both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) have passed health care reform legislation.
The Senate Finance Committee has been viewed as having the most potential to move legislation that can pass the U.S. Senate - which will be the critical test as to whether health care reform will go the distance. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has made a good faith effort in developing a bipartisan health care reform bill. As of this writing, the Finance Committee approved its version of a health reform measure with the Republican support of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. The markup legislation is available but not finalized.
Finally, H.R. 676, the U.S. Health Care Act, has been referred to committees with no action taken. H.R. 676, the U.S. National Health Care Act, will provide free health care to all individuals residing in the United States. H.R. 676 includes all medically necessary care (primary and prevention), prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services, dental services and vision care.
Employer mandates and public options continue to be controversial pieces to legislation being considered.
In addition to the impact major health care reform will have on small businesses, collision repairers are witnessing important antitrust issues being brought to the legislative table. Similar to the health care reform debate during the Clinton administration, House leaders are now considering a review of the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr.'s, D-Mich., House Bill 3596, the "Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2009." Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced a companion bill, S.1681, and a hearing for the Senate bill is scheduled this fall.
In the early 1990s, Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Texas, chaired the House Judiciary Committee. Brooks was a strong ally of the Automotive Service Association in its efforts to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act. Brooks worked with ASA and a coalition of small business organizations to try to attach a modified repeal of McCarran on the health care reform legislation. President Clinton's health care package was not successful in the Congress and this was the last serious attempt at McCarran repeal.
Unlike the previous effort during the 1990s, the current McCarran strategy would be to limit the repeal to health insurers only. The purpose of H.R.3596 and of S.1681 is to ensure that health insurance issuers and medical malpractice insurance issuers cannot engage in price fixing, bid rigging or market allocations to the detriment of competition and consumers. Property and casualty insurers would continue to enjoy the current state regulatory structure with many issues relative to collision repair left unchecked.
Reps. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., earlier this year introduced H.R. 1583 - the "Insurance Industry Competition Act of 2009" - which encompasses all of the insurance industry, as opposed to just the health sector. Co-sponsors of this legislation include Reps. Brian Baird, D-Wash.; Phil Hare, D-Ill.; Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio; Eric Massa, D-N.Y.; Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.; Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.; and Taylor.
ASA made H.R. 1583 a top priority for its 2009 Capitol Hill Fly-In to Washington, D.C. Taylor encouraged ASA members to continue to work with House Judiciary Committee members to move the legislation forward.
In the 110th Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman introduced McCarran-Ferguson Act repeal legislation with a strong bipartisan list of co-sponsors. Despite encouragement from the national Antitrust Modernization Commission report, the committee did not have a markup of the bill. The commission terminated after
Now that the Senate Finance Committee has completed its work on Baucus' health care bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will structure what legislation is considered on the floor of the Senate. Reid will work with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and other key Senate leaders on the final package to be voted on in the Senate. It is during this process that the fate of the McCarran repeal will be determined or possibly through an amendment on the Senate floor.
House leaders are trying to determine how best to pass health care reform on the House floor. The core of the legislation is the product of the House Energy and Commerce Com_mittee, H.R. 3200. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee have also worked on health care reform. Leaders will put together the final package this fall for floor consideration. Any chance for McCarran-Ferguson Act repeal in the House would occur during this period of time.
Collision repairers are encouraged to go to www.TakingTheHill.com and send a letter to their representatives and senators in support of a repeal of McCarran-Ferguson that includes property and casualty insurers.
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