When you are released from the hospital, you may or may not be handed a bill for services. Typically, your medical bills go straight to the insurer, and you are given an “explanation of benefits.” These are often tantamount to Latin; there is no way to make sense of any of the billing procedures or how the prices are fixed.
Healthcare businesses are among the only industries where it is literally impossible to shop around for the best deal or to compare prices for procedures, equipment, or medicines that you are prescribed. It’s one of the few fields allowed to work under the table, and they have a monopoly on the market. It lets them charge whatever they want, squash any competition, and have an unfair advantage through jurisdictions and other unscrupulous business practices.
Until recently, antitrust legislation has not applied to health insurers. Thanks to a bill approved by the House Judiciary Committee, though, that is all about to change. Supported by the American Hospital Association, Congress has approved a measure that would make health insurance companies subject to the same liability as other industries for anti-competitive business practices.
The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act HR372 is slated to protect competitors and consumers within the healthcare system and make businesses liable for unfair business practices, just like any other industry. Without the exemption that they have always had, things are about to change for health insurance companies around the nation.
No longer will the companies be allowed to engage in unfair trade practices; health care companies and insurers will now be held accountable for the same standards of business conduct as other industries, like not bid-rigging or price-fixing.
Anyone who has ever shopped around for health insurance knows that you are only allowed to be insured by certain insurance companies within your state. They can’t sell insurance across state lines, which is one of the reasons there is very little competition. With all sorts of barriers to fair market trade, for the past 25 years healthcare providers and insurance companies have been allowed to do what they want and run amok without anyone questioning their practices.
Groups such as the American Chiropractic Association, the American Dental Association, the American Optometric Association, and the American Community Pharmacy Association are all in favor of the antitrust laws going into effect. They maintain that they are excited about the prospects of introducing competition and fairness into the healthcare marketplace. The bill is centered not around the profits of the providers or the insurance companies, but around the patients and the level of the care that they receive.
Since a repeal or replacement of Obamacare might be in the near future, many legislators feel that the antitrust bill is the first step to freeing up the marketplace for healthcare and helping to reduce the financial burden that many families and individuals face when it comes to their insurance costs.
The new bill provides hope that the measure will stabilize the market and remove the special protections afforded to insurance companies and an insurance claim lawyer. This has led to astronomical increases in premiums over the past several decades. The vote was a bipartisan display that legislators might have finally heard the voice of the people they represent.
According to the bill, no industry has the right to have an unfair competitive advantage through restrictions or zones. Likewise, no special interest group should be exempt from following the same laws that other industries are required to follow. There is no reason why the healthcare industry has been allowed free reign to conduct business as they want without any government interaction or checks and balances.
The hope is that Americans will again be able to afford the healthcare they need, and will be allowed to choose the right insurance carrier without barriers or special protections. Also gone is the restriction of competitiveness through the use of state lines or other methods of banning fairness in the industry. With phase one of replacing Obamacare already being decided upon, bringing price competition back into the health marketplace will be a welcome change for American households.