NU Online News Service, Nov. 3, 3:07 p.m.EST

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Legislation to repeal the antitrust exemption for health andmedical malpractice insurers "will have no significant effect" onpremiums charged for private health insurance, the CongressionalBudget Office reported.

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Responding to the CBO analysis, officials of the PhysicianInsurers Association of America, which represents medicalmalpractice insurers owned by physicians' groups, said the reportrefutes claims by "several consumer groups" that repealing theprovision would reduce insurance costs by 20 percent.

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Lawrence E. Smarr, president of the PIAA, added that the CBOreport has "revealed that this legislation is in essence apolitically motivated attempt to appease personal injury lawyersvia a spurious bill."

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The CBO's projections were based on an analysis of H.R. 3596,legislation passed by the House Judiciary Committee andincorporated into the overall House healthcare package, H.R. 3962,"the Affordable Health Care for America Act."

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The House bill includes an amendment that provides "safeharbors", joint insurance industry activities protected fromantitrust regulation, for example, compilation of historic lossdata.

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The omnibus bill may come up for House floor action as early asFriday.

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The CBO said, "Based on information from the Justice Department,the Federal Trade Commission, the National Association of InsuranceCommissioners, consumer groups, and private attorneys, CBOestimates that both of those effects would be very small, and thusthat enacting the legislation would have no significant effect onthe premiums that private insurers would charge for healthinsurance."

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The CBO also said that to the extent that insurers wouldotherwise engage in the prohibited practices and be prevented fromdoing so by enactment of this bill, premiums might be lower. But,the CBO report said, "that effect is likely to be small becausestate laws already bar the activities that would be prohibitedunder federal law if this bill was enacted."

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