Today’s Health Care Check-Up: — August 23, 1999

Not All Doctors Support Health Care Lawsuits!

"As attractive as the idea of suing health maintenance organizations seems, it will simply further obstruct American health care by opening up new income opportunities for lawyers."

— Dr. Neal Hermanowicz M.D., letter to the editor,

The New York Times, 8/17/99

Who else opposes subjecting health plans and the employers who sponsor them to costly, expanded health care lawsuits?

  • The U.S. Senate

First, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee rejected expanded liability during its mark-up of the so-called "Patients’ Bill of Rights" in March. Then the full Senate stripped expanded liability from the "Patients’ Bill of Rights" during floor debate on July 15.

  • 22 states

Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia have all rejected expanded liability.

  • Labor union health plan administrators

"External review we can live with. We cannot live with monetary damage awards that may benefit an individual or his heirs, but bankrupt a [health care] plan and wipe out the health care coverage of the thousands of workers, retirees and family members who depend on, and finance, the plan." (James S. Ray before the House Employee-Employer Relations Subcommittee on behalf of the National Coordinating Committee on Multi-Employer Plans, which coordinates the health plans of millions of union workers, May 6, 1999)

  • President Clinton’s own hand-picked Commission on Health Care Quality

"At its final meeting today, the 34-member panel side-stepped the politically explosive question of whether to authorize compensation or create new legal remedies for patients." (New York Times, 3/13/98, on Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry)

  • The Washington Post

"Likewise, the Democratic bill would make it easier for aggrieved patients to sue managed care companies that denied either care or reimbursement. Our preference would be to try a system of external appeals before subjecting an even greater share of medical practice to the vagaries of litigation." (The Washington Post, 7/12/99)

Put patients first – not trial lawyers. Oppose expanded health care lawsuits in the Dingell-Norwood health care bill.