by Jim Nintzel
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on the health-care summit:
The House on Wednesday took a significant step toward achieving real health insurance reform by voting to repeal the antitrust exemption enjoyed by health insurance companies. I was proud to stand with the strong bipartisan majority that voted for the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act.
The legislation we passed advances three goals that many Arizona families and businesses have told me they want: it helps boost competition, increases choice and gives consumers greater control over their own health care.
Of equal importance, it will help hold the health insurance industry accountable under our nation’s fundamental fair competition laws by removing
the special blanket antitrust exemption that has been in place since 1945. Our nation has changed a great deal in the last 65 years. Our laws need to keep pace.
As a former small business owner, I know that competitive markets are a driving force in our economy. But we need practical rules to make sure competition benefits Arizonans and all Americans. This is what the repeal of the antitrust exemption is all about.
Wednesday’s vote came at a critical time. President Obama recently released a health insurance reform plan that would prevent insurance companies from arbitrarily raising rates. This plan will be the focus of much debate at today’s health care summit between the president and Congressional leaders.
With this televised meeting underway, I call on my colleagues to put partisanship aside and get this job done. Arizonans have told me in no uncertain terms that they are tired of the bickering and fed up with the gridlock. I am, too. We need to move forward.
My sincere hope is that today’s discussion is a serious and good-faith effort to find solutions and does not end up being the high-stakes showdown we’ve heard about in the media. We need to stop the political posturing and game playing.
Rising health insurance premiums are hitting families and businesses hard. Anthem Blue Cross in California recently announced a 39 percent price increase, even though its parent company made a $2.7 billion profit in the previous quarter. This problem is not exclusive to California. A recent study by the American Medical Association found 94 percent of U.S. health insurance markets are “highly concentrated” according to long-established antitrust standards. This means they lack any meaningful competition.
Clearly, this sorry state of affairs is unacceptable. The hard-working men and women I represent have had enough. The time has come for Washington to show the nation that it can act like adults to achieve the reforms we all want and need.