Today’s Health Care Check-Up: — June 26, 2000

What Newspapers are Saying About
New Health Care Lawsuits

"…As to the right to sue, our preference is to keep the practice of medicine as far from the courts and the predatory instincts of some of the trial bar as possible. We’d try a quick-turnaround, genuinely independent medical appeals process first. The Supreme Court rightly noted the other day that politicians have been promoting managed care as a way to contain health care costs for more than a quarter-century. If they want now to calibrate the process – impose some restrictions on the cost-containment heavies, as perhaps they should – they should be the ones to do it rather than look to the courts as the police. We’re well aware that people are harmed in the health care system. But the threat of a lawsuit should not be what governs health care in this country. To the extent that Congress can avoid or contain that awful possibility, we think it should."

The Washington Post, 6/15/00

"The problem, of course, is that America’s voluntary, employer-based group health insurance system would be devastated if companies and/or their hired agents (HMOs) were subjected to unlimited legal liability. Were that to occur, so many companies would simply quit offering insurance that today’s count of 43 million uninsured would look like the good old days. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress, along with some misguided Republicans, are hot to make it easier for patients to sue their company-sponsored health plans. Only a beleaguered few, led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, are trying to hold off a litigation explosion whose ultimate victims would be the very workers Democrats supposedly want to protect. Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision underscores that Congress must act. But that action should be to mandate fast and impartial administrative appeal of patient complaints. More suits will only mean less health care."

— The Chicago Tribune, 6/14/00


"Legislation now before Congress seeks to expand patients’ clout with HMOs, which would be a good thing. Including a right to sue for punitive damages, however, would deal a fatal setback to the cause of reducing medical costs. And the money that patients, their health plans and their employers would have to pour back into the medical system would not even stay in that system. It would find its way instead to lawyers’ bank accounts. And a lawyer has cured someone about as often as a court has legislated well."

The Plain Dealer, 6/16/00

"Authorizing lawsuits against HMOs sounds appealing but could have disastrous consequences. Two years ago, we argued on this page that ‘putting resources into costly lawsuits will force insurers to jack up rates for everybody. The only folks who’ll have an easier time affording health insurance in a litigation free-for-all will be the lawyers.’ We stand by that view. A credible, speedy appeals process, as is being fashioned in compromise legislation, would serve patients better than suits – especially since some employers are looking for a reason to drop group health insurance as a benefit."

Louisville Courier-Journal, 4/26/00

"It's clear that trial lawyers are cashing in on the anti-managed care sentiment the left wing has been able to arouse in its quest to further the government control of health care. Such outcomes would become more frequent if Congress were to pass a law allowing patients to sue managed care plans for malpractice. In a recent survey, more than one-third of employers said they probably would eliminate workers' health benefits if that happened. Employers obviously are beginning to realize that the inexorable quest for deep pockets eventually will lead to them. Consumers should realize that they are at the end of the food chain."

Florida Times-Union, 2/1/00

"The House passed a bill extending the right to sue HMOs and even letting patients sue employers contracting with insurance companies. If the legislation’s details were to become law, health care and health insurance would almost certainly return to their inflationary ways, many employers would drop health insurance benefits altogether and still more people would find themselves joining the 43 million currently uninsured. … The House bill and a less reprehensible Senate bill are now in a conference committee that would serve the public well by dispensing with the extended right to sue."

Ventura County Star (CA), 6/1/00