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Newt Gingrich slams House for 'attack on insurance companies'

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted the House of Representatives what he called an 'attack on insurance companies.' On Wednesday, in a bipartisan vote, the House stripped health insurance companies of their exemption from federal antitrust laws.

Former House Speaker and Center For Health Transformation founder Newt Gingrich (c.) and Public Opinion Strategies partner Bill McInturff (l.) answer questions during a Monitor Breakfast in Washington on Thursday.

Michael Bonfigli / Special to The Christian Science Monitor

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted the House of Representatives for action it took Wednesday that stripped health insurance companies of their exemption from federal antitrust laws.

Speaking to reporters Thursday at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast, Mr. Gingrich said, “If you look at the legislative history of that particular action it is utterly, totally irrational. I mean, I can’t tell you if it is good or bad. Show me the hearings. Show me the expert testimony. Show me any sense that this is more than a public-relations gesture. This is the government of the United States dealing with the largest single sector of the economy capriciously based upon press conferences. It is madness.”

Bipartisanship, at least on the surface

The Democratic measure passed the House on a 406 to 19 vote with all House Democrats supporting the measure and many Republicans going along, despite private grumbling. The measure, which faces an uncertain future in the Senate, would put insurers under federal antitrust jurisdiction by amending a 1945 law that placed regulation of competition among health insurers under state authority.

The measure is part of a multifaceted Democratic attack on the unpopular health insurance industry seeking to bolster support for President Obama’s healthcare reform drive. “This whole attack on the insurance companies is just demagoguery,” Gingrich said.

An easy target

But with the giant WellPoint health insurance firm under fire for major rate hikes in California, health insurers are not popular. “The optics are terrible,” Gingrich said. “If you feel desperate to have an opponent and you are looking for somebody to beat up, they have certainly found a good target. So if you want to give them [Democrats] high marks for target hunting, I would accept that analysis.”


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