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Pelosi on Repealing Antitrust Exemption: Health Insurance Companies Will Now Be Playing on the People's Field

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in support of H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, which passed by a overwhelming bipartisan vote of 406 to 19.  Below are the Speaker's remarks. 

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the Chairman for his generous remarks and for his tremendous leadership on bringing this important legislation to the floor.  Mr. Conyers is well known as a champion of the people and today he demonstrates that once again.  This House of Representatives, Mr. Chairman, is called the people's house.  And you are a leader in the people's house.  Today, we live up to that name. 

“By passing legislation that increases leverage for the people by changing the playing field, a playing field that has been dominated by the insurance industry for over 65 years and now it's the people's turn.  The health insurance companies will now be playing on the people's field.

“Mr. Conyers, thank you for your ongoing leadership, for fairness, for competition, for a better deal for the American people.  I also want to commend the Chairwoman of the Rules Committee, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, for her ongoing and persistent insistence that this legislation come to the floor.  When she served in the state legislature in New York, she was fighting this fight.

“This antitrust exemption was passed again around over 60 years ago and was supposed to last three years.  65 years later, we are on the floor of the House to finally repeal the special exemption that insurance companies have that no other industry, except Major League Baseball, has in our country. 

“I also want to commend Mr. DeFazio, who has been a champion on this issue.  He has worked with our new Members of Congress, and they have been a source of energy to move this legislation.  Congresswoman Betsey Markey of Colorado, Congressman Tom Perriello of Virginia, the authors of this bill.  We are grateful to them for their courage and their leadership because the insurance companies don't want this bill, but the American people do.  And I commend those who have worked so hard.  Another new Member, Congressman John Garamendi, a former insurance commissioner of the state of California, played an effective role from the start as soon as he arrived to get this legislation to the floor.  And again, I believe that the legislation has many Republican supporters as well so that of course, is really a source of confidence to us as we go forward into the health care debate. 

“One year ago, we began this debate on health care--quality, affordable health care for all Americans.  We got a running start on it in the recovery package with big investments in basic biomedical research and into health information technology.  So we were on the cutting edge of science and technology for this.  We had a running start on it by passing the SCHIP in a bipartisan way, State Children's Health Insurance Program, insuring 11 million children in America.  And then the debate has gone on from the summit the President had a year ago in a bipartisan way to a summit he will have tomorrow as well.  But in the meantime, this very important piece of legislation is before us today. 

“I have always said that any health care reform had to make the Triple-A test.  It had to have affordability for the middle class, accessibility for many more people and accountability for the insurance companies.  No longer would they have it all their way.  And that's what this legislation does. 

“We had this on the agenda and then the snows came, and we had to put it off.  And in between the time when we all got snowed out, Anthem Blue Cross in California announced that it was going to raise its rates 39 percent, 39 percent for health insurance.  Over the past decade, insurance rates have gone up over 150 percent.  And this continues in Michigan, Kansas, other places in the country.  These insurance rates have gone up because the insurance companies simply have not been accountable, and this has worked to the disadvantage of the American people. 

“Today we are providing much more competition, much more freedom for the American people, by expanding their choices with this important legislation.  I urge our colleagues to support the legislation and once again salute all those who made it possible to bring this before the people's house today.”