NU Online News Service, March 21 10:15 a.m. EDT
An amendment to House legislation that would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson antitrust exemption for health insurers has been ruled in order for floor debate.
But the amendment was modified to ensure that it would only cover health insurance and could not be interpreted by a court as possibly repealing the exemption from antitrust laws provided to life and property and casualty insurers.
The amendment to H.R. 5, Protecting Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act, was cleared for floor debate by the House Rules Committee late Tuesday.
Debate on the bill will begin Wednesday and a vote on the final legislation is expected Thursday.
The amendment is sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
The amendment “would restore the application of antitrust laws to the business of health insurance by amending the McCarran-Ferguson Act.”
Legislators limited the amendment to health insurance by specifically citing the definition of health insurance in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the I.R.S. Code.
To further insulate other forms of insurance, three other provisions were added to the amendment.
One would exempt life insurance and annuities products from the scope of the amendment; the second would exempt property or casualty insurance, “including but not limited to, automobile, medical malpractice or workers’ compensation insurance; and a third provision would exempt any “insurance or benefits defined as ‘excepted benefits,’ from the scope of the amendment, whether offered separately or in combination with life insurance and annuities products.”
The purpose of the bill to which the amendment is attached is to repeal a provision of the healthcare law that created the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
But legislation imposing federal standards on medical-malpractice lawsuits was added as a so-called “pay-for” for the bill.
Industry officials were not available to comment at press time.