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Insurers may lose anti-trust exemption

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Oct 21, 2009
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Insurers may lose anti-trust exemption

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Oct 21, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Bill Radke: The debate in Congress over the health=care overhaul
has brought to light something you might not know: Health insurance companies are exempt from anti-trust law. That means they can legally fix prices.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer tells us,
there is legislation being considered today
that might change that.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: The House Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that would lift the health-insurance industry’s exemption from anti-trust law. Congress passed the exemption in 1945. It was supposed to be temporary — a way to ease insurers into regulation. But it’s still on the books, because of some behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

All these years later, health-insurance companies can still get together and decide what to charge you, and what to pay your doctor.

J Robert Hunter is with the Consumer Federation of America. He says consumers would be surprised to learn that rules prohibiting price fixing don’t apply to health insurers.

J ROBERT HUNTER: When you tell them that insurance companies are allowed to get together and do things that the corner baker couldn’t do with the bakery across the street, most people get upset when they hear that.

Anti-trust lawyer Jay Angoff says, without the anti-trust exemption, health insurers would have to compete.

JAY ANGOFF: What repealing the anti-trust exemption would be to force them to become more competitive, or go out of business.

Angoff says that competition could lead to lower prices for you and me.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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