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PARCA '99 - A Prescription for Rising Costs and More Uninsured Americans
Contact: Johanna Schneider

202-872-1260
Release Date: 01/07/1999

Statement by The Business Roundtable

Washington, DC, January 7, 1999 - As health care costs are rising, Representative Charlie Norwood (R-GA) today will announce a new bill - the "Access to Quality Care Act" or PARCA '99 - which will only add to increased costs and decreased coverage for businesses and families. If enacted, it will seriously jeopardize America's employer-based health care system.

Norwood's new bill, which combines measures of his failed Patient Access to Responsible Care Act (PARCA) and the failed Kennedy-Dingell "Patients' Bill of Rights," would add to the growing costs that businesses are experiencing to provide health benefits to their employees. According to a recent survey by Towers Perrin, large employers' health benefit costs are growing an average of 7 percent this year, almost twice the rate of 1998. Additional mandates to the employer-based health care system could price employers out of providing health care coverage for their employees.

One particularly detrimental provision would allow additional lawsuits against health plans and employers, which would put employers at risk of being sued for medical malpractice.

"Increased lawsuits could drive up premiums as much as 8.6 percent, according to the Barents Group, of KPMG Peat Marwick, forcing businesses to pay $94.1 billion ($1,284 per worker) in extra premium costs over five years," said Tony Burns, chairman, president and CEO of Ryder System, Inc. and chairman of The Business Roundtable Health and Retirement Task Force.

"Close to 2 million Americans could lose their health insurance next year as increased costs force many employers to eliminate coverage altogether, or pass on higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs to employees who can't afford them."

Rep. Norwood claims that his revised bill exempts employers from liability for medical decisions. But the only way employers can escape liability under his bill is to give up any responsibility for benefit decisions affecting their employees. Even if his bill could effectively shelter employers from lawsuits and direct liability-which his proposal does not accomplish-the costs of expanded liability would still be passed on to employers, employees and their families.

The Business Roundtable urges Congress to oppose Norwood's latest bill, as well as any legislation that increases costs and decreases coverage for hard working American families.

The Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading corporations with a combined work force of more than 10 million employees. The chief executives are committed to advocating public policies that foster vigorous economic growth and dynamic global economy.

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2001 The Business Roundtable