Copyright 1999 The Times-Picayune Publishing Co.
October 9, 1999 Saturday, ORLEANS
SECTION: NATIONAL; Pg. A05
LENGTH: 577 words
SLIDELL WOMAN GETS SHARE OF CREDIT FOR BILL'S OK;
LOSS OF BABY INSPIRED PUSH
FOR PATIENT RIGHTS
BYLINE: By Bruce Alpert Washington
Florence Corcoran's emotional account of
losing her baby after an insurance company refused to pay for hospital bed rest
ordered by her doctors emerged as the prime example for proponents of
legislation that would allow patients to sue their health plans.
Friday, the 46-year-old Slidell woman was getting some of the credit for the
275-151 House passage of just such a law.
"She helped humanize what at
times was an arcane debate," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families
USA, one of the bill's chief backers. "Her testimony emotionally moved members
of Congress in ways that hours of debate could never achieve."
Corcoran's personal tragedy became a rallying point for those who have
been working for years for a patients' bill of rights with a
In 1989, her doctors prescribed hospital bed rest
during the late stages of what they considered a high-risk pregnancy. But her
insurance plan would pay for only 10 hours per day of home care, and while the
nurse was gone one day, the fetus went into distress and died. A few days later
she came close to losing her own life.
Corcoran sued, but her case was
thrown out because the 1974 Employment Retirement Income Security Act prohibits
lawsuits against employer health plans.
"I don't know how to describe my
feelings," Corcoran said Friday from her Slidell home. "I've fought so hard to
try to get this legislation moving, and now that we've gotten to second base, I
think we are getting closer to making history."
Corcoran won't benefit
by the legislation; the provisions allowing lawsuits are not retroactive.
"But it would mean so much to me if just one other person doesn't have
to go through what I have," Corcoran said. "I'm still fighting depression over
it, and I have never been able to put this issue to rest. I still feel I was
dealt a very bad deal."
The Senate passed a much narrower bill in July,
which includes no new rights to file lawsuits. And many of the Senate provisions
apply only to the 48 million Americans in health plans that fall under a 1974
federal benefits law.
Sen. John Breaux, D-La., said prospects are
probably 50-50 for agreement on a comprehensive bill, given the opposition of
most Senate Republicans.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who has brought
Corcoran several times to Washington to help boost the bill, said the fact that
68 House Republicans broke with their party's leadership has changed the
But Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., the No.2 Republican in the
Senate, vowed to stop many of the provisions passed by the House. He said the
bill would increase litigation to the point that insurers will have to
drastically raise rates, increasing the number of uninsured Americans beyond the
current 43 million.
Corcoran said she'll continue to press for passage.
"They (HMO officials) allowed a clerk thousands of miles away to make a
life-threatening decision about my life and my baby's life without even seeing
me and overruled five of my doctors," she said. "They don't get held accountable
and that's what appalls me. I relive that all the time. Insurance companies
don't answer to anybody."
But insurance groups, who predict a big
increase in health-care costs if legislation like the House bill is signed into
law, also vowed to fight.
"The House of Representatives took a giant
step backwards in the quest for patient protection," said Karen Ignagni,
president of the American Association of Health Plans.
LOAD-DATE: October 9, 1999