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Insurance Industry Antitrust Fight Headed To Conference Committee

The insurance industry successfully fought off a Senate threat to revoke its antitrust exemption as part of health care reform, but the issue lives to fight one more battle in the conference committee negotiations that will take place between the two chambers.

The issue surfaced in mid-October, shortly after the industry lobby, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), pushed hard against the Democratic health care reform effort, claiming it would significantly raise premiums.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded by saying the industry should lose its cherished antitrust exemption -- implemented some 60 years ago by the McCarran-Ferguson Act -- and be forced to compete under the same rules as any other enterprise.

"Insurance companies have become so large they dominate entire regions of the country," he said. "They have become so powerful they block start-up businesses from entering the market, and they put smaller companies out of business. They have become so dominant that they dictate business practices. They are so influential that they exert tremendous influence over public policy."