Vote Notes: Two Positive Steps on Healthcare
Today has been a long day.
It began with a meeting at the White House on healthcare - and ended just a few moments ago with another meeting on the same topic. With the exception of two vote series, I have been in and out of meetings, calls, and visits on this subject through the day. Some of these exchanges have been more cordial than others.
There is much worth relating in this day, and I will come back and do so, but before the events of today and tomorrow crowd out the legislative activity of the last two days, I wanted to send a quick update on two of the bills passed. These bills passed with unanimous Republican support and even a number of Democratic yes votes. Interestingly, these two bills were both included in the replacement bill Senator Rand Paul and I offered last month in our proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.
The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act (H.R. 372) ends a competition killing piece of legislation, known as McCarron-Ferguson. The McCarron bill passed back in 1945 under pressure from insurance industry lobbying and exempted insurance companies from federal antitrust laws. As a result, they have not been bound by federal prohibitions on corporate collusion, price fixing, and monopolies, and obviously each of these practices can drive up prices for consumers. Currently, just three health insurance companies control 80% of the market in 37 states, and most would hardly consider this great soil conditions for the growth of competition. The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act repeals this 72 year old carve-out, as it applies to health insurance companies in about 1 page of legislative text. I believe applying federal antitrust laws to health insurance companies will benefit hospitals, doctors, and patients as insurers are forced to compete. Accordingly, I voted yes.
The second bill, the Small Business Health Fairness Act (H.R, 1101), would reduce government barriers that hamstring legitimate small businesses from joining together in groups to negotiate for more affordable health insurance plans for their employees. Most people get their insurance through employer-sponsored plans, and big companies have buying power that individuals or small businesses do not.
Size matters when it comes to negotiating strength, and this bill would allow small businesses to pool together and create buying power.
These buying groups, called Association Health Plans, are currently allowed but heavily restricted. The Department of Labor regulations make it difficult for groups to band together for buying power, and in simplest form, this bill would make it easier. This bill would reduce barriers and allow dues-collecting organizations with a common purpose, like local chambers of commerce, to form an Association Health Plan. According, I voted yes.