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A primer on the antitrust exemption for insurers

For those still confused about the antitrust exemption for the insurance industry, Jenny Gold has a nice piece running through the issue. The policy takeaway is that the CBO estimates that repeal will have no measurable impact on premiums or coverage, the insurance industry isn't working very hard to keep the exemption, and Scott Harrington, a health-care expert at Wharton, says, "I can think of very few things in the bill that would be less consequential for consumers of health insurance."

I agree with all of that. On the other hand, since it doesn't matter much, and it's good politics either way, Democrats may as well go after it. They just shouldn't fool themselves into thinking they've actually done anything useful when they've finished.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 8, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
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isn't this actually bad for competition?
small insurers have less actuarial data and as such, they are the only ones who really need the info sharing granted by the anti-trust exemption.
i hope i'm wrong, but isn't this a further step, though a small one, in concentrating the insurance market further?

Posted by: rt72 | February 8, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

i just read your malpractice article that you linked to earlier and it seems pretty convincing that the lawsuits themselves are only a fraction of the cost of healthcare.

But that seems to be only one part of the equaiton. How much of the cost of health care is due to doctor's treating patients in such a way to prevent lawsuits versus how much treatmetn is necessary?

Do doctors' overtreat patients as a way of protectign themselves against lawsuits that could occur? This would seem to raise the cost of health care if it is common.

Posted by: DropItLikeItsHot | February 8, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

"They just shouldn't fool themselves into thinking they've actually done anything useful when they've finished."

Sadly, that's probably going to be the summation of all of Congress's work for 2010, no?

Posted by: blynch201 | February 8, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Any piece of legislation with the names of Pat McCarran and Homer Ferguson on it should be deep-sixed for that reason alone.

Posted by: henderstock | February 8, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Agree. Pretty meaningless but might as well do it. Dems should also pass tort reform - pretty inconsequential but popular.

Posted by: mbp3 | February 8, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

if it is meaningless, what did the insurance industry gain by asking for the exemption?

Posted by: jamesoneill | February 9, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

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