Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) delivered the following remarks during floor debate on H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017.
Chairman Goodlatte: I rise today in support of a bill that will move us a step closer towards restoring healthy competition in the health insurance industry. Today, the health insurance industry is besieged by dwindling competition and skyrocketing premiums. Insurance providers, states, and the public have been dealing with the disastrous repercussions of Obamacare for the past six years and overregulation by states for much longer.
Congress finally has the opportunity to pass legislation to reverse the downward spiral of our health insurance industry. Any such legislation must encourage a robust and competitive health insurance market in which insurance providers actively compete for customers. Healthy competition ensures premiums are accurately priced and that customers are able to find a variety of policies to meet their specific needs and demands.
H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2017, represents a step on that journey, repealing the McCarran-Ferguson Act as it applies to the business of health insurance. There is wide support for this bill, and the Judiciary Committee has favorably reported similar legislation in the past, including legislation that was passed by the House 406-19 during the 111th Congress.
The stated goal of the bill is to help restore competition in the healthcare market. I support this goal and firmly believe this bill must be coupled with larger changes to the existing federal and state health care regulatory schemes. As Speaker Ryan has noted, states “should be empowered to make the right tradeoffs between consumer protections and individual choice, not regulators in Washington.” This bill does not impact the states’ ability to regulate the insurance market.
Rather, this legislation levels the playing field for all health care industry participants. While insurers have been exempt from federal antitrust laws for the past 70 years, health care providers and other participants have not. This bill removes this exemption, ensuring that health insurers are better able to compete to provide quality coverage, thereby benefiting hospitals, doctors and, most importantly, patients.
In addition, if separate legislation is passed to allow for the more open sale of health insurance across state lines, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act will allow uniform federal antitrust laws to be applied across the marketplace, while allowing states to maintain authority as the primary regulators of the health insurance market outside of the antitrust sphere.
The McCarran-Ferguson Act was originally passed to leave the regulation of the business of insurance with the states and to allow insurers to engage in certain pro-competitive collaborative activities.
This legislation limits significant uncertainty and unnecessary litigation that would likely result from a broader McCarran-Ferguson repeal, through the use of safe harbors for such historically pro-competitive collaborative activities, specifically, the collection and distribution of historical loss data, the determination of loss development factors, the performance of actuarial services that do not involve restraints of trade, and the use of common forms that are not coercive.
Absent these safeguards, insurers will likely disengage from certain pro-consumer collaborative activities, eliminating or impeding smaller insurers from competing and disincentivizing larger insurers from exploring new products and markets. This will lead to further market consolidation and fewer product choices, the impact of which will eventually be borne by the consumer.
These narrow safe harbors create a presumption that certain pro-competitive activities can continue, while maintaining regulation and oversight to the extent any activity crosses over into a restraint of trade. As a result, insurers can continue to engage in pro-consumer business practices and will be encouraged to provide a diverse range of offerings at fair and reasonable prices.
I thank Mr. Gosar for introducing this legislation and urge all of my colleagues to vote for the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act. I reserve the balance of my time.
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