Crowley Votes to Restore Fairness and Competition to Health Insurance Marketplace

February 24, 2010
Press Release

Washington, D.C. —Today, Congressman Crowley cheered passage of critical legislation to ensure that Bronx and Queens consumers get a real choice and a fair deal when purchasing health insurance.  The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act (H.R. 4262) 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.  The bill passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, 406-19.

“Small businesses across the Bronx and Queens are struggling to provide health coverage to their employees because the cost has skyrocketed so dramatically in the past few years,” said Congressman Crowley.  “Middle-class families are facing higher premiums, a lower quality of coverage and limited choices – all while the insurance companies are jacking up prices and turning record profits.  Increased competition in the health insurance industry will mean better plans at more affordable prices – a real relief for many New York families, individuals and small businesses.”

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.

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.

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.