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The Antitrust Audible and Return of the Soda Tax

In a bit of a policy reprimand for AHIP reform insubordination, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill sponsored by Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would partially repeal the 60-year-old exemption from antitrust law for health insurers. I’ve often wondered why this hasn’t entered the limelight to this point, as a main argument by pro-reformers is that there is no competition in 94% of the American health insurance market and several states are almost completely dominated by one or two health plans. It should ideally be a bipartisan movement as this is clearly not a competitive American free market.

The law would allow for federal prosecution of insurers found guilty of “price fixing, bid rigging or market allocations” that are now only regulated by states, and a similar bill sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is pending in the Senate. House Speaker Pelosi stated today that the legislation will definitely be added into HR 3200, and Harry Reid has expressed interest in adding it to the Senate bill as well.

In other news, Governor Paterson of New York has revived the soda tax idea in order to raise revenue and close the state’s budget gap. I’m a big fan of this idea, and have talked about it in the past here and here. Some Congressmen have expressed interest in the idea for financing on the federal reform front, as health-related taxes (including smoking, drinking, etc.) could also do wonders to promote wellness and healthy lifestyle.

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