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1 health proposal without dissent

2/25/2010 © Health News Florida
If you'd thought Florida's members of Congress couldn't come together on any health proposal, you're wrong: House members from Florida voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a bill to remove the anti-trust exemption from health insurers.

All Democrats voted for HR 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act. Only 19 Republicans voted against it, none from Florida. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The bill would remove exemptions for health insurance that were enacted by the McCarran-Ferguson Act back in 1945. 

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, had argued for the bill on the floor before the vote: “It is time for policymakers to decide whose side they are on: health insurance companies or American families and small business. The answer is clear. No more favors for private insurance companies."

With the health care summit going on in Washington today, no one's paying any attention to the anti-trust issue. Health News Florida called a couple of Republican Congressmen to see whether their vote with the Democrats implied a thaw in relations. We didn't get an answer to that, just a written statement from Rep. Vern Buchanan:  “Health insurance is too expensive for many working families and small businesses. This bill will increase competition and lower health insurance costs for consumers.”

The Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, saying in a letterto lawmakers that it "will do nothing to protect consumers and is a solution in search of a problem."  It wouldn't help the health-cost crisis, the Chamber wrote, and could have unintended consequences. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, however, that the exemption had discouraged state insurance commissioners from policing anti-competitive behavior in the health insurance industry. She said health insurers had used the exemption to block court action.

Kaiser Health News offers a deeper analysis.