Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) will file an amendment to the Senate healthcare bill in order to repeal the insurance industry's antitrust exemption on Tuesday.
The House included a similar repeal in its legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expressed support for it.
But some centrist Democrats oppose the repeal. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) has said he's secured an assurance from Reid that the provision will not be included in the final Senate bill.
Leahy framed the proposal as a way to prevent unfair insurance practices.
“This amendment will prohibit the most egregious anticompetitive
conduct — price-fixing, bid-rigging and market allocations — conduct
that harms consumers, raises healthcare costs, and for which there is
no justification," he said.
"Subjecting health and medical malpractice insurance providers to the antitrust laws will enable customers to feel confident that the price they are being quoted is the product of a fair marketplace."
UPDATED: Sen. Joe Lieberman has joined Leahy in calling for a repeal, an interesting move for the Connecticut Independent whose state is home to several insurance firms' headquarters.
“There is no reason that health insurers should be exempt from our federal antitrust laws,” Lieberman said in a statement.
“Anti-competitive conduct that reduces consumer choice and drives up prices is harmful to consumers and should be subject to the full range of federal remedies to end such practices," he added.
The partnership between Leahy and Lieberman is also strange given that Leahy called for Lieberman to lose his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee after campaigning for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president in 2008.