Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, has signed on as a co-author of legislation that would require the the health insurance industry to follow the same anti-trust laws imposed on other businesses.
The legislation comes on the heels of outcry over Anthem Blue Cross’ announcement that it would raise premiums as much as 39 percent for some customers.
“When almost every other industry colludes at the expense of consumers, we call it a crime,” Garamendi said in a prepared statement. “When the health insurance industry colludes, we call it business as usual. This legislation removes one of the most damaging weapons in the insurance industry’s arsenal: the ability to manipulate the market together behind closed doors.”
Garamendi is the former California insurance commissioner.
The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, H.R. 4626 was introduced by reps. Tom Perriello of Virginia and Betsy Markey of Colorado. According to Garamendi’s office, it will “restore competition and transparency to the health insurance market.”
Among its provisions, Garamendi said it removes the health insurance industry’s blanket antitrust exemption and allow federal agencies to investigate allegations of collusion.
“Anthem Blue Cross’s recent decision to increase rates on customers nearly 100 percent in the past two years, despite earning $2.4 billion in profits in the final three months of 2009, is Exhibit A of what happens when we let insurance companies operate behind a veil of legalized secrecy,” Garamendi said. “Removing the anti-trust exemption and including a robust public option are two of the most important tools available to us to improve public health and hold the insurance industry accountable for its actions.”