Although health care reform appears to be hopelessly stalled, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are posed to take the current anti-trust exemption away from health care insurance providers.
The pending legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., and Rep. Betsy Markey, D.-Colo. “This should be an easy one,” said Perriello. “For too many years [health insurance firms] have enjoyed monopoly protections, something enjoyed only by major league baseball.”
The exemptions have been in place since the 1940s. Defenders of the current system say it lets insurers share loss data, which in turn allows for accurate rate prediction. Without that ability, many fear rates would climb.
Although no Republicans support the measure, it is indicative of the kind of end runs Democrats may attempt as their comprehensive health care package languishes. Both the House and Senate have narrowly adopted their respective bills, but the future of a compromise program is in serious peril.
The election of Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican who has assumed the seat long-held by the late Ted Kennedy, stripped Democrats of their ability to prevent filibusters in the Senate. Most pundits, and even President Barack Obama, have conceded that the current health care effort may be dead.
This leaves Democrats to seek a series of “piecemeal” bills to keep health care reform on the front burner as mid-term elections approach. Most of these efforts are likely to target greater control and regulation of the insurance industry, but without an overall legislative framework, it remains to be seen if any effective improvements can be made in this fashion.