Last updated on: 9/1/2010 | Author:

Are insurance companies still exempt from federal anti-trust laws?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor’s Note: In 1944 the US Supreme Court ruled in United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters (322 U.S. 533) that insurance companies were part of interstate commerce, thus subject to federal regulation and anti-trust laws. Overriding the Supreme Court’s ruling, Congress passed the McCarran-Ferguson Act  in 1945 that has since protected insurance firms from federal prosecution for price fixing, bid rigging and carving out protected markets.]

Jenny Gold, Staff Writer for the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News, in her Feb. 24, 2010 article “The Antitrust Exemption for Health Insurers: Meaningful or Not?,” wrote:

“Insurers are among a handful of industries, including Major League Baseball, that have a special exemption from federal antitrust laws.

The McCarran-Ferguson Act [passed by the US Congress in 1945] gives states the power to regulate the ‘business of insurance,’ granting insurers a limited exemption from federal antitrust scrutiny. Insurers, for example, under the federal antitrust exemption may be able to meet, share information and agree on pricing for premiums, but experts say that most states prohibit that practice.

The law does not bar the federal government from regulating the insurance industry entirely; the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice are responsible for antitrust enforcement involving mergers and acquisitions.”

Feb. 24, 2010

PRO (yes)


Robert Reich, JD, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, wrote on his blog,, in a May 24, 2010 post titled “Obama’s Regulatory Brain”:

“The final health care act doesn’t even remove the exemption of private insurers from the nation’s antitrust laws.”

May 24, 2010


Louis Jacobson, Staff Writer for the St. Petersburg Times website, wrote in his Apr. 8th, 2010 post titled “New Health Care Law Takes Steps Toward Reining In Malpractice Excesses”:

“During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to ‘strengthen antitrust laws to prevent insurers from overcharging physicians for their malpractice insurance.’…

…[T]he House initially approved language that would have removed the existing antitrust exemption for health insurers and medical malpractice insurers, but it did not make it into the final bill.”

Apr. 8th, 2010

CON (no)


[Editor’s Note: We have been unable to find any cons to this question, and if you know of any, please let us know. Sep. 1, 2010]