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Media Summary - 2000 Annual Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates
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AMA says Supreme Court decision underscores need for strong patients’ rights legislation

For immediate release
June 12, 2000

Statement attributable to:
Donald J. Palmisano, MD
Member, AMA Board of Trustees

CHICAGO – “Today’s Supreme Court decision in Pegram v. Herdrich is consistent with the AMA’s view that ERISA is not the proper legal avenue for addressing medical decisions that harm or injure patients. ERISA was never intended to apply to medical treatment decisions and therefore does not contain appropriate legal remedies. ERISA should not be used as a shield to prevent health plans from being held accountable under applicable state law when they make medical necessity decisions that harm patients.

“In its ruling, the Court supported the AMA’s view that physicians are accountable to patients through their ethical obligations and under applicable state law.

“The AMA agrees with the Court’s overall conclusion that state law should govern how HMOs are held accountable for their actions that result in harm to patients. That conclusion, however, will mean very little for America’s patients unless Congress passes a strong, meaningful patients’ bill of rights.

“Currently, the AMA supports federal patients’ rights legislation that would eliminate any doubt, after today’s decision, as to whether patients can hold HMOs legally accountable under state law. Some courts have denied patients that opportunity by determining that ERISA “preempts” state law.”

“Today’s ruling provides a compelling argument for a strong patients’ bill of rights. We urge Congress to pass appropriate legislation and protect America’s patients now.”

For more information, contact:
Mike Lynch
AMA Dept. of News and Information
(312) 294-6646
(Beeper 1-800-759-8352 pin # 1268976)

Last updated: Jun 12, 2000

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