As health insurance lobby meets in DC, Congress starts moving bill to strip its antitrust protection

This afternoon, a group of the nation’s top insurance company executives are going to be in D.C. for the “State Issues Conference” sponsored by America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP). That’s the lobbying group for the insurance industry. Insurance companies used to always get their way in DC. That’s changing.

Yesterday, on Capitol Hill, there was some key action towards reining in insurance companies by taking away their antitrust protection. And, this first vote in the Judiciary Committee was actually bipartisan:

Across the Capitol, the House Judiciary Committee took tough action against the health insurance industry, voting Wednesday to strip federal antitrust protections shielding companies from investigations into price-fixing and other practices.

Although Democrats have led the repeal push in recent weeks, the committee’s 20 to 9 vote came with the support of three Republicans: Rep. Dan Lundgren, a former California attorney general; Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.), a former judge; and Rep. Tom Rooney (Fla.), a former state assistant attorney general.

“This measure fixes a mistake sitting on the federal statutes for over 60 years,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).

In a letter sent to Conyers before the vote, Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry trade group, criticized the legislation as attempting “to remedy a problem that does not exist.”

Of course, Ms. Ignangi doesn’t think there’s a problem. She also doesn’t understand the problems Americans face with health insurers. Although, today, she could and should find out. AHIP’s event has generated a protest at the Capitol Hilton. And, seven families who have been directly harmed by the insurers will be holding a press conference, organized by HCAN, at the same hotel. Ignangi and the insurers won’t meet with them.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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