Contacts: Renae Newmiller
(202) 973-1376
Todd Irons
(202) 973-2927

Employers Fight Patient "Protections" That Leave Millions "Unprotected"

Health Benefits Coalition Warns Federal Mandates and New Health Care Lawsuits Would Drive Up Costs and Increase Uninsured

Washington, DC, June 23, 1999 — More than 150 million Americans receive health insurance from their employers, and today those employers joined together to warn Congress that so-called "patients’ rights" bills now being considered would raise health care costs, increase the number of uninsured and expose employers to costly new lawsuits. The Health Benefits Coalition, which represents more than three million large and small employers, voiced these concerns and vowed a major grassroots and advertising effort to turn back health care "reforms" that do more harm than good.

"The best patient protection is coverage," stated Dan Danner, chairman of the Health Benefits Coalition. "Our coalition will oppose any bills which make it harder for employers to provide coverage and harder for working families to afford it."

Of particular concern to employers is language in the Kennedy-Dingell "Patients’ Bill of Rights" (S. 6 and H.R. 358) that would expand health care liability to health plans and the employers who sponsor them. This provision would force employers to either give up control over their health plans or risk being sued for medical malpractice. A recent survey showed that nearly 60 percent of small businesses would likely drop health insurance coverage for their employees if faced with increased liability. The Kennedy-Dingell bill would not allow the federal government to be sued – only private health plans and employers.

"The employer liability provision is a poison pill for any health care reform legislation. It would simply line the pockets of trial lawyers, not improve patient care," said Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"You cannot sue your way to quality health care," added Samuel Maury, president of The Business Roundtable. "Today a portion of every patient’s medical bill reflects the doctor’s malpractice premium. Tomorrow, if Kennedy-Dingell becomes law, each of us will pay the price regardless of our direct involvement with injury or lawsuit."

"Some in Congress would like us to believe that these bills would not affect employers," stated James Klein, president of the Association of Private Pension and Welfare Plans. "This is totally false. Employers and their employees who administer plans would be liable under these bills. And even if they did shelter employers, the considerable costs of expanded liability on health plans would be passed on to employers, employees and their families."

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently found that the Kennedy-Dingell bill would have a "significant effect on costs." CBO estimated that the legislation would increase the cost of health care premiums by 6.1 percent and add $56 billion more in mandates on the private sector. This would raise the cost of family coverage by $350. Higher costs could force nearly two million more Americans to lose their health insurance.

"Health care costs for 1999 are already expected to increase by roughly 9 percent, the largest increase in seven years," said Patrick Cleary, vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers. "More mandates on top of this increase could price many employers out of providing health benefits to their employees."

The coalition demonstrated the effect the Kennedy-Dingell bill would have on the number of uninsured by showing a chart comparing the current number of uninsured (43 million) to the populations of nine mid-western states — with the Kennedy-Dingell bill adding three more states to the list.

Also addressing the cost issue, Danner spoke about the impact of Kennedy-Dingell on small business. "Small businesses are already experiencing larger increases in health care costs — in some cases increases of 20 percent or more. The Kennedy-Dingell bill would make it even worse and one lawsuit could wipe out a small business entirely."

TV ads were also shown at the press conference highlighting the employers concerns that higher health care costs, more uninsured, and a flood of costly lawsuits would result from "patients’ rights" legislation. In addition to television ads being run by the Health Benefits Coalition, The Business Roundtable is running radio ads highlighting similar concerns.


The Health Benefits Coalition is a broad-based organization representing three million employers providing health care coverage to more than 100 million employees and families. The coalition believes affordable, quality health care is best achieved through broader coverage, choice and competition in the marketplace —not government mandates.