Unlike just about every other industry in America, health insurance companies are completely exempt from federal antitrust laws.
They can establish monopolies and raise rates without having to worry about competition, like Blue Cross just did in California, where they're raising premiums by up to 39% for some customers.
But now, there's a real chance that could change, thanks to Rep. Tom Perriello, a progressive freshman in a very challenging Virginia district. His bill to subject insurers to antitrust laws just passed the House 406-19 despite overwhelming opposition from the insurance industry.1
Republicans have been trying to protect insurers—they even tried to block this bill from coming to a vote—but Perriello called their bluff and forced them on the record.2 Now the Senate needs to follow the House's lead and pass Rep. Perriello's antitrust measure. Sign our petition to Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer right now. Click to add your name:
The petition reads, "Big insurance companies like Blue Cross have too much power. The Senate must subject them to antitrust laws, just like every other company."
We still desperately need comprehensive health care reform. But this bill, which Perriello is pushing along with Colorado Rep. Betsy Markey, is a simple, concrete step to rein in the power of the insurance companies, and it's not currently included in the health care reform package. There's no excuse for the Senate not to pass it.
Tom Perriello is someone you should know about, if you don't already. His district went for McCain 51-48, but Perriello is standing up for what he believes in. He voted for the House's energy and climate legislation, even as Tea Partiers responded with plans to burn him in effigy. And he voted for the House health care bill with a public option even while Glenn Nye, another freshman Democrat in a neighboring district, caved in to insurance companies and opposed the bill.
Perriello's voting record isn't perfect, but he's really shown recently what it's like to be a fighting Democrat. Listen to his response when asked if Senate Democrats should give up on an economy-wide cap on global warming pollution:
"We are swearing an oath to do what's necessary to protect this country, not do what's necessary to get a bill through the Senate. If you look at what voters were upset with on the health-care bill, it was all the carve-outs and exemptions and watering it down. Voters are smart; they know that the House bill stood up to the health insurance companies and the Senate bill didn't. The same thing is true here: If they respect that the bill is actually going to transform our economy, make us more competitive and more independent, they'll support it. If it seems like it's just a sell-out to the big donors from the oil and gas companies, they won't support it.
"That's the question that we should be asking: Does this solve the problem? Is this a solution worthy of the American people? And if it is, then great; let's move forward with it."3
Click here to add your name:
Thanks for all you do.
–Kat, Daniel, Joan, Adam, and the rest of the team
1. "House votes to strip health insurance companies of antitrust exemption," The Washington Post, February 24, 2010
2. "House Votes Overwhelmingly To Abolish Insurance Industry Anti-Trust Exemption," DownWithTyranny!, February 25, 2010
3. "Rep. Tom Perriello: 'Every week the Senate doesn't act, we're giving up jobs'," Grist, February 25, 2010
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