June 29, 2000
Member of Congress
Dear Member of Congress:
The American Medical Association (AMA) recently circulated a letter to Members of Congress claiming the Dingell-Norwood patients’ bill of rights "does not create any new liability for employers." The AMA's assertion is completely untrue and every organization representing America's employers has reached the same conclusion. The AMA does not speak for employers on this issue, we do.
As employers who would bear direct liability under the Dingell-Norwood bill, we would like to set the record straight about how employers would be subject to new lawsuits under the legislation. While the bill contains a so-called "exception" for some actions by employers, this exception is quickly retracted by a "special rule" that – for the first time – directly allows a lawsuit against an employer when the employer exercises discretionary authority in making a decision on a claim for benefits.
Many employers do, in fact, make at least some health benefits decisions. Also, they often act as advocates for their employees to see that they get the coverage they should expect from their health plan. Employers who help their employees in this way could find themselves liable for "exercising discretionary authority."
The Dingell-Norwood bill does not prevent anyone from filing a lawsuit against an employer – it simply offers employers a possible defense. Under the legislation, employers could find themselves named in lawsuits under either state or federal law, forcing them to shoulder the burden and expense of defending themselves in court against assertions by trial lawyers that their actions or agreements fell outside of the "protections" stated in the legislation. Far from exempting employers from liability, the legislation merely offers employers a defense that they could attempt to raise when these inevitable lawsuits are initiated.
Contrary to the AMA’s claim that the Dingell-Norwood bill "would actually protect employers," employers clearly would be liable under the Dingell-Norwood bill, and the legislation actually expands an employer’s risk of being subject to a lawsuit. If Dingell-Norwood were to become law, the only real protection for many employers against the trial lawyers’ assault would be to drop health care coverage for their employees.
For these reasons, we are unalterably opposed to the Dingell-Norwood patients’ bill of rights, and we strongly urge you not to support this harmful legislation.
The Business Roundtable