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Antitrust Enforcer for U.S. Says Insurers May Lack Competition

By Lorraine Woellert and Justin Blum

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Christine Varney, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief of antitrust enforcement, said the dominance of major health insurers might be hurting competition.
Varney endorsed a measure approved by the U.S. this week that would revoke insurers’ 65-year-old federal antitrust exemption. Insurers now share data to help set premiums without fear they will be charged with federal price-fixing violations. Revoking the exemption had been part of a health-care overhaul that has stalled in Congress.
Varney, 54, discussed her first year in office in the hour- long interview, her first since July. She suggested the Obama administration is ramping up antitrust enforcement over that of former President George W. Bush’s administration, though not to a degree that should alarm businesses.
When asked to compare her approach to antitrust to that of Bush administration officials, if her predecessors were ranked two or three on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the toughest, Varney gave her office four or five.
“I come to this job not timid about using antitrust authority to ensure markets are open and competitive,” Varney said. “When markets are working, I have no intention of intervening.”