CONTACT: Chris Buchanan
Morrison Cain
(703) 841-2300

IMRA Urges Opposition to the "Access to Quality Care Act of 1999"

--Bill Would Make Employers Unfair Targets of Lawsuits--

ARLINGTON, VA, January 22, 1999- The International Mass Retail Association (IMRA) is urging members of Congress not to sign onto H.R. 216, the "Access to Quality Care Act of 1999" (AQCA), the successor to Rep. Charles Norwood's (R-GA) Patient Access to Responsible Care Act (PARCA) in the previous Congress. "Although this bill may be well-intentioned," says IMRA President Robert J. Verdisco, "it contains many costly consequences that would hurt both employers and employees."

The bill would remove employer protections under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA currently protects mass retailers and other multi-state employers from being subject to fifty different state regulatory schemes, and thus enables them to offer nationally uniform health plans without being subject to a variety of state mandates.

In addition, ERISA shields employers who offer health insurance benefits to their workers from lawsuits. AQCA could open employers who sponsor health plans to new medical malpractice and other lawsuits. "If this happens, many employers would be forced to reduce employee benefits, increase already rising premiums, or drop coverage completely, in order to respond to potential lawsuits," Verdisco says.

According to Verdisco, "Mass retailers are strongly committed to providing employees with quality health care, but this act undercuts their efforts to control employee health care benefit costs and severely hurts employers' freedom to innovate and tailor health plans to the specific needs of their employees."

In letters to Congress, IMRA argues that the government should encourage employer-based health care by supporting market-based health care reform, such as expanding medical savings accounts (MSAs). "Employers voluntarily providing generous health benefits should not be discouraged from doing so," says Verdisco. "This, unfortunately, would be the result of expanding liability and excessive government mandate-writing--which Rep. Norwood's new bill would invite."

For more information on this issue, contact Morrison Cain or Chris Buchanan at IMRA, (703) 841-2300.


The International Mass Retail Association represents consumers' first choice for price, value and convenience. Its membership includes discount department stores, home centers, category dominant specialty discounters, catalog showrooms, dollar stores, warehouse clubs, deep discount drugstores, and off-price stores. IMRA retail members operate more than 77,000 American stores and employ millions of workers. One in every ten Americans works in the mass retail industry, and IMRA retail members represent over $411 billion in annual sales.