This is the complete rush transcript of a speech Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) gave on the House floor this morning at approximately 11:30 a.m. eastern time.
The House was debating the health insurance anti-trust exemption created in 1945 by the McCarran-Ferguson Act. The act allows insurance companies to collude with one another to keep prices high and to share data for the purposes of cherry picking the best customers to insure.
We should listen to our constituents.
I did town halls in August and they were attended by over 8,000 people.
And there was one item of agreement between the extremes in the debate between those representing the Tea Party and those representing single-payer.
And that was consensus, that this industry, the health insurance industry, should not enjoy a special exemption under the law.
They should not be able to collude to drive up prices. Limit competition. Price gouge consumers. They should play by the same rules as every other industry in America.
And this archaic exemption from anti-trust law should go to the dustbin of history.
There was consensus on that.
Now come the Republicans, oh wait a minute, “We’re not protecting the industry, we don’t to allow them to still have the anti-trust exemption, it’s about the little guys.”
It’s always about the little guys, isn’t it? So let’s give the little guys a loophole, oh but wait a minute, the big guys can use the same loophole.
Now the other thing I’ve heard is let’s be bipartisan.
Well there’s nothing much more bipartisan than the report of The Anti-trust Modernization Commission from April 2007.
This was a commission created by the Republican Congress when they controlled both the House and the Senate and the White House with the members named by President George Bush and the Republican leadership of Congress.
They came to the conclusion that this loophole, that they’re advocating today, should not exist.
And I’ll quote briefly from the conclusions from the bipartisan Republican created commission.
They said, “A proposed exemption should be recognized as a decision to sacrifice competition.”
Oops, I thought they were for competition?
“And consumer welfare.”
I thought they were for the consumers?
“And should be allowed only if Congress determines that a substantial and significant counter-valuing societal value outweighs the presumption in favor of competition and the widespread benefits it provides.”
They go on to address their arguments and they say, there are those who will argue that the small companies need to aggregate data and they will need this safe harbor.
And they [the commission] say, no actually not.
This again is the Republican created commission.
“Like all potentially beneficial competitor collaboration generally, however such data sharing would assessed by anti-trust enforcers, and the courts, under rule of reason analysis. They would fully consider the potential pro-competitive effects of such conduct and condemn it only if on balance it was anti-competitive. Insurance companies would bare no greater risk then companies in other industries engaged in data sharing and other collaborative undertakings. To the extent that insurance companies engage in anti-competitive collusion, however, they would then be appropriately subject to anti-trust liability.”
They want to give them a safe harbor – that is so big that the Justice Department could never review it. Their objective to the fact that the Justice Department might look at and investigate the activities surrounding data sharing and potential collusion by the industry to continue to price gouge consumers and benefit unreasonably and profit unreasonably.
They want to create that loophole. That loophole is unnecessary.
If you adopt that proposal, we might as well just not pretend to care about consumers and consumer welfare and that we’re going to meaningfully address this industry playing by the same rules as every other industry.
[Will the gentleman yield?]
No I will not yield. The gentleman has his own time.
This industry should play by the same rules as all others – plain and simple.
Americans get that.
They’re not happy with seeing their insurance premiums double every ten years – and now it’s more of doubling rate of three to five years.
They know that they are being taken to the cleaners.
They know that the industry is trying to cherry pick.
They know there’s anti-trust activity going on.
It’s time for that to change.