On August 2, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced the “Insurance Competition and Transparency Act of 2010,” designated as Senate bill 3685. The bill would greatly expand the ability of the Federal Trade Commission to conduct industry-wide investigations of insurer practices. Currently, the Federal Trade Commission may not engage in such investigations without first obtaining written approval from the Senate Commerce or House Energy and Commerce Committees. Furthermore, the FTC’s authority over non-profit entities is not as expansive as it is over for-profit companies.

If enacted, S. 3685 would eliminate the requirement that the FTC receive Congressional approval for insurance industry investigations. The bill would also eliminate the language in the FTC Act that limits the FTC’s jurisdiction over non-profit entities. In announcing the introduction of the legislation, Senator Pryor stated, “The FTC should be doing more to shed light on the lack of competition [in the insurance industry]. This legislation ensures that the FTC can do its job and bring greater transparency and competition in the health insurance industry.” Senator Rockefeller added, “The FTC must have the freedom to oversee and eliminate market manipulation in the health insurance industry,” and that the bill would “complement the recently passed comprehensive health reform law by helping to make sure affordable, comprehensive health insurance options are available to all American families.”

Notably, despite the Senators’ focus on health insurance in their statements, the change in the law, if enacted, would apply to all forms of insurance, not just health insurance. Little time remains for Congress to take up the bill this session. But if not addressed by this Congress, it is likely to be reintroduced in early 2011. Stay tuned.