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Dems Aim To Strip Insurance Industry Of Anti-Trust Exemption

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By David Espo
Associated Press via Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Democrats launched a drive at both ends of the Capitol on Wednesday to strip the insurance industry of its decades-old exemption from federal antitrust laws, part of an increasingly bare-knuckled struggle over landmark health care legislation sought by President Barack Obama.

If enacted, the change would put an end to "price-fixing, bid-rigging and market allocation in the health and medical malpractice" insurance areas, said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy said he would seek a vote on the plan when the Senate debates health care legislation in the next few weeks.

Leahy made his comments at the same time the House Judiciary Committee voted 20-9 to end an industry exemption that dates to 1945. Three Republicans supported the move.

Senior Democratic officials said the leadership was inclined to incorporate the measure into the broader health care bill expected to be brought to the floor for a vote within a few weeks. No final decision has been made, they added.

Taken together, the actions reflect the fury Democrats have shown in response to recent insurance industry attempts to influence the shape of legislation. The events occurred less than a week after the insurers' trade association issued a report saying a measure that cleared the Senate Finance Committee would produce sharp increases in premiums for millions who currently have insurance.

Democrats and the White House reacted angrily, attacking the study as flawed and politically motivated....(Remainder.)

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