But many antitrust experts say that ending the exemption — by repealing the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act — wouldn’t significantly increase competition or reduce premiums.
“This is just barking up the wrong tree for health insurance,” said Scott Harrington, a professor of health care management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. While many lawmakers are eager to pass some kind of health care bill, they “don’t have a clue how the antitrust exemption works. It might sound good, but I can think of very few things in the bill that would be less consequential for consumers of health insurance.”
Here is a short primer on the issue:
What is the antitrust exemption?
Insurers are among a handful of industries, including Major League Baseball, that have a special exemption from federal antitrust laws.
The McCarran-Ferguson Act gives states the power to regulate the “business of insurance,” granting insurers a limited exemption from federal antitrust scrutiny. Insurers, for example, under the federal antitrust exemption may be able to meet, share information and agree on pricing for premiums, but experts say that most states prohibit that practice.