Lewis Votes to Restore Competition in Health Insurance
Washington, DC - Today, Rep.John Lewis voted to ensure that American consumers get a real choice and a fair deal when purchasing health insurance. The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act will take away the anti-trust exemption for health insurance companies, requiring them to compete fairly and adhere to the same anti-trust laws as other companies. Despite a heated floor debate the bill passed by a vote of 406 to 19. No member of the Republican delegation of Georgia voted in favor of this legislation.
“The cost of health care has gone through the roof. I meet so many people in my district who are struggling with health insurance debt. The problem not only faces the uninsured, but families with health insurance are going bankrupt when someone in the family is stricken with a major illness. Middle-class families are facing higher premiums, lower quality of coverage, and their choices are more limited everyday. While Americans are struggling, insurance companies are enjoying record profits. This injustice must come to an end.”
For 65 years, the health insurance industry has been legally exempt from anti-trust laws, and the federal government was banned from even investigating evidence of possible collusion. In the last 14 years alone, there have been 400 mergers among health insurers and now 94% of all insurance markets are “highly concentrated” – meaning consumers have little or no choice between insurance providers.
“There are only two industries that are exempt from anti-trust laws – health insurance companies and major league baseball,” said Rep. Lewis. “It is time we repealed that exemption for health insurers so that Americans can get a fair deal when shopping around for something as crucial as health insurance.”
Health insurers that were previously exempt from anti-trust laws will now bear legal responsibility for price fixing, dividing up territories among themselves and sabotaging their competitors in order to gain a monopoly in the marketplace. Such practices have been outlawed in other industries for decades. “Competition is the core principle of our economy,” said Rep. Lewis. “And for consumers, it’s a guarantee of two things: more choices and lower costs. It is the engine that drives economic growth, spurs American innovation and ensures that consumers are getting a fair deal. This bill creates a fair health insurance marketplace and helps put our economy on sound footing for the future.”The legislation is supported by numerous groups including the American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Center for Justice and Democracy, and U.S. PIRG.
Following is Rep. Lewis's statement made on the House Floor today made during debate of this bill:
Madam Speaker, I still believe that health care is a right and not a privilege. And this Congress must not rest until we make health care a reality for all Americans. I know we will get this job done for the American people.
But until that day comes, we must do what we can to make health insurance work for people who depend on it. This bill is long overdue. The health insurance industry has been treated differently for over 50 years, and they’ve abused that privilege. In too many states, there is no competition and no choice for consumers.
Insurance companies are raising rates, denying care and dropping people when they get sick. All the while, making record profits. We need to put people first, not profits. For too long, insurance companies have had the upper hand. It’s not fair. It’s not just and today we say "no more." It is time to repeal this antitrust exemption and put people first.
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