UNION LABOR LIFE INS. CO. V. PIRENO, 458 U. S. 119 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Union Labor Life Ins. Co. v. Pireno, 458 U.S. 119 (1982)

Union Labor Life Ins. Co. v. Pireno

No. 81-389

Argued April 27, 1982

Decided June 28, 1982*

458 U.S. 119


As required by New York law, petitioner Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULL) issues health insurance policies covering certain policyholder claims for chiropractic treatments. Some ULL policies limit the company's liability to "reasonable" charges for "necessary" medical care and services. In order to determine whether particular chiropractors' treatments and fees were necessary and reasonable, ULL arranged with petitioner New York State Chiropractic Association (NYSCA), a professional association of chiropractors, to use the advice of its Peer Review Committee, which was established primarily to aid insurers in evaluating claims for chiropractic treatments, and which is composed of 10 practicing New York chiropractors. Respondent is a licensed chiropractor practicing in New York. On a number of occasions ULL referred his treatments of ULL policyholders, and his charges for those treatments, to the Committee for review. The Committee sometimes concluded that respondent's treatments were unnecessary or his charges unreasonable. Respondent brought suit in Federal District Court, alleging that petitioners' peer review practices violated § 1 of the Sherman Act because petitioners had used the Committee as the vehicle for their conspiracy to fix the prices that chiropractors would be permitted to charge for their services. The District Court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment, dismissing respondent's complaint on the ground that ULL's use of NYSCA's Peer Review Committee was exempted from antitrust scrutiny by § 2(b) of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which applies to the "business of insurance." The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the action for further proceedings.

Held: ULL's use of NYSCA's Peer Review Committee does not constitute the "business of insurance" within the meaning of § 2(b) of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, and thus is not exempt from antitrust scrutiny. Group Life Health Ins. Co. v. Royal Drug Co., 440 U. S. 205, controlling. Pp. 458 U. S. 126-134.

Page 458 U. S. 120

(a) There are three criteria relevant in determining whether a particular practice is part of the "business of insurance" exempted from the antitrust laws by § 2(b): first, whether the practice has the effect of transferring or spreading a policyholder's risk; second, whether the practice is an integral part of the policy relationship between the insurer and the insured; and third, whether the practice is limited to entities within the insurance industry. Royal Drug Co., supra. Pp. 458 U. S. 126-129.

(b) With regard to the first criterion, petitioners' arrangement plays no part in the spreading and underwriting of a policyholder's risk, because it is logically and temporally unconnected to the contract entered by the policyholder and ULL, which was the actual risk-transferring event. As to the second criterion, ULL's use of NYSCA's Peer Review Committee is distinct from ULL's contracts with its policyholders, and constitutes a separate arrangement between the insurer and third parties not engaged in the business of insurance. Nor does the challenged arrangement satisfy this criterion on the asserted ground that it directly involves the "interpretation" and "enforcement" of the insurance contract, because ULL's procedure for deciding whether claims are covered is a matter of indifference to the policyholder, whose only concern is whether his claim is paid, not why it is paid. As respects the third criterion, it may be assumed that the challenged arrangement need not be denied the § 2(b) exemption solely because it involves parties outside the insurance industry -- namely, practicing chiropractors serving on the Peer Review Committee. But such arrangements can hardly be said to lie at the center of the legislative concern underlying § 2(b), which was with the protection of intra-industry cooperation in the underwriting of risks. More importantly, such arrangements may prove contrary to the spirit as well as the letter of § 2(b), because they have the potential to restrain competition in noninsurance markets. Pp. 458 U. S. 130-134.

650 F.2d 387, affirmed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,and O'CONNOR, J., joined, post, p. 458 U. S. 134.

Page 458 U. S. 122

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