POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - 2:29pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:24pm
A new move today in the health care reform fight: Top Senate Democrats announced plans to strip big medical insurance companies of their exemption from federal anti-trust laws.
Democrats say that would outlaw price fixing that, in other industries, could send executives to jail.
And Democrats say it will lower health care costs and give Americans more choice in coverage.
Medical insurance plans would have to comply with federal anti-trust laws, like car companies, retailers, and oil companies do now.
No secret talks allowed between companies to divide up territory and fix prices.
"Criminal conduct which would land people in jail in other industries is legal when health insurers when do it," says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Because of the anti-trust exemption it's hard for the federal government to do anything, even about things as egregious as price fixing!" adds Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
Insurance plan spokesman Robert Zirkelbach denies they're engaged in price fixing.
He says the real problem is rising doctor, drug and hospital costs.
"It's just not true that health plan profits are what's driving health care costs. For every dollar that we spend in this country on health care less than one penny goes to health plan profits," claims Zirkelbach.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Pelosi is pressuring insurance companies a different way.
She's pushing a health reform bill to the floor that includes a public option, which would provide government competition to private plans.