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WASHINGTONCongress should grant immunity from federal antitrust laws "rarely" if ever, according to a report issued Tuesday by a bipartisan presidential panel.
But the Antitrust Modernization Commission stopped short of calling for repeal of the limited antitrust exemption granted insurers by the McCarran-Ferguson Act. Instead, the group called for congressional review of the exemption as well as exemptions granted to other industries.
The report said in general, Congress should grant statutory immunity only "on the basis of compelling evidence that either (1) competition cannot achieve important societal goals that trump consumer welfare, or (2) a market failure clearly requires government regulation in place of competition."
The commission also recommend that Congress adopt sunset provisions that would end any anti-trust exemption at a specified date "unless specifically renewed."
The Property Casualty Insurers Assn. of America issued a statement saying that the review "reflects a misunderstanding of the exemption and what it allows."
Ben McKay, PCI's senior vp in Washington, said "the net effect of repeal would punish the millions of consumers who rely on small and medium-size companies to protect their homes, autos and businesses. Because repeal would significantly damage these insurers' ability to compete effectively in the market, consumers would pay higher prices and have fewer insurance choices," he said in a statement.
The 540-page commission report is available at www.amc.gov.