Pryor, Rockefeller Introduce Legislation to Increase Transparency, Competition in Insurance Industry

Bill Strikes Down Needless Restrictions on Existing FTC Authority to Shed Light on Anticompetitive Practices

August 2, 2010

Consumer Protection 2WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) introduced the Insurance Competition and Transparency Act of 2010 today that would strike a provision in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act that restricts the FTC’s authority to investigate and disclose information about practices employed by insurance companies that may reduce competition in the marketplace. Currently, many insurance companies, including the health insurance industry, are largely exempt from this FTC oversight.

“In Arkansas, one company controls 75 percent of the health insurance market. I believe this monopoly has a significant impact on the cost, services, and choices we have when it comes to our health care,” said Senator Pryor, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance. “The FTC should be doing more to shed light on this lack of competition. This legislation ensures that the FTC can do its job and bring greater transparency and competition to the health insurance industry.”

“For too long, too many health care decisions have been made behind the closed doors of the health insurance companies and without the patient’s best interests in mind,” said Senator Rockefeller, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the U.S. Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. “The FTC must have the freedom to oversee and eliminate market manipulation in the health insurance industry, so we can bring more competition into the system—this will help to bring down costs and remove barriers to necessary medical care for the people who need it. The Insurance Competition and Transparency Act of 2010 will complement the recently passed comprehensive health reform law by helping to make sure affordable, comprehensive health insurance options are available to all of our hardworking West Virginia and American families.”

The Insurance Competition and Transparency Act of 2010 would give the FTC the freedom to conduct studies, prepare reports, and release information relating to insurance companies without first receiving a written request from the Senate Commerce or House Energy and Commerce Committees. Because many insurance companies have nonprofit status, the bill would eliminate the general exemption under the FTC Act for non-profit insurers. The FTC would be able to police anti-competitive practices of all insurance companies, regardless of whether or not they claim nonprofit status. The legislation mirrors an amendment Senators Pryor and Rockefeller pushed for during the health care reform debate.