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Floor Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for H.R. 372, the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017”

Mar 21, 2017

Although I rise in qualified support of H.R. 372, the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017,” I do not endorse the Majority’s exaggerated claims regarding the bill’s impact on the affordability and availability of health insurance.

H.R. 372 would partially repeal the limited Federal antitrust exemption for the business of insurance established by the McCarran-Ferguson Act in 1945. 

Specifically, the bill only permits Federal antitrust enforcement with regard to the business of health insurance.

House Democrats have long supported a full repeal of McCarran-Ferguson’s antitrust exemption for all insurers, not just for health insurers.

And, in 2010, under a Democratic House Majority, we passed legislation to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson exemption for health insurers by a vote of 406 to 19, even though House Republicans had not previously supported moving any version of a McCarran-Ferguson repeal bill.

But let me be clear.  Enacting H.R. 372 would in no way be a substitute for the many health insurance guarantees of the Affordable Care Act.

To begin with, enacting H.R. 372 would not significantly improve health care affordability or coverage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 372’s effect on health insurance premiums “would probably be quite small,” and enacting the bill will have “no significant net effect on the premiums that private insurers would charge for health or dental insurance.”

And, Consumers Union observes that the application of the antitrust laws to some health insurance activity, by itself, is simply not enough to create a vibrant insurance market because our “long experience shows you can’t expect a health care system to run effectively on competition alone.”

Likewise, the Majority’s claim that enacting H.R. 372 would create major new competition by allowing cross-state insurance sales is unavailing.

Current law, including the Affordable Care Act, already allows states to agree with each other to allow cross-state insurance sales.

Enabling Federal antitrust agencies to police certain forms of anticompetitive conduct will not, in and of itself, incentivize health insurers to offer products across state lines beyond the incentives that already exist for offering such products.

Whatever the incentives for health insurers to offer such products, they have little to do with Federal antitrust law or enforcement.

Finally, enacting H.R. 372 would not ensure that the Affordable Care Act’s prohibitions against discrimination and limits on premium growth would remain in place.

H.R. 372 only applies to certain anticompetitive conduct and does not preserve or enhance existing protections for consumers of health insurance.

For instance, it does not prohibit discrimination by health insurers on the basis of preexisting conditions.  Nor does it reduce premium growth or require health insurers to be accountable for price increases.

Repeal of the antitrust exemption for health insurance is a complement to, not a replacement for, the Affordable Care Act’s many consumer protections.

This is not an “either/or” situation.  We need H.R. 372 and the Affordable Care Act to be in place to maximize benefits, improve quality, and lower costs for consumers.

While I support the bill, I take issue with the Majority’s rhetoric.  It is important that we set the record straight here.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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CLOSING REMARKS

In closing, I want to reiterate my support for H.R. 372. 

As I have already mentioned, House Democrats have long supported legislation to repeal the McCarran-Ferguson Act’s exemption for the business of insurance.

Repealing the antitrust exemption for health insurers, as H.R. 372 does, will make the Affordable Care Act even more effective.

I disagree, however, with the Majority’s attempt to use this legislation as a fig leaf for replacing the Affordable Care Act. 

Indeed, the same architects of the Majority’s “repeal and replace” effort—including Speaker Paul Ryan, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady—voted against a substantively identical version of this bill in 2010.            

Let us not be fooled. I yield back.

115th Congress