Today’s Health Care Check-Up: — August 31, 1999

Newspapers’ Views of the "Right" to Sue HMOs – It’s Wrong!

"Try hard enough to reform some social or economic process, and you might just reform it right out of existence. Congress, locked in a highly partisan struggle, may be just about to do that with managed health care in America. [L]etting patients take the provider to court merely means turning the practice of medicine over to lawyers and emotional juries. The cost of guarding against unwarranted jury awards will boost the cost of managed care, to the extent that many employers, particularly smaller ones, will no longer be able to offer health plans to their workers."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/10/99

"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

"To make insurers think twice, the Democrats also would make it easier for patients who claim to have been harmed by the denial of care to seek damages in court. Our instinct is that they ought to wait on this – create a strong appeals process and see if that will do the job before creating new avenues for litigation as well. The less the practice of medicine can be converted into the practice of law, the better."

The Washington Post, 3/16/99

"But one supposed ‘reform’ bubbling up on Capitol Hill would undo all the rest by inviting a flood of malpractice lawsuits against insurers, and even employers. That, in turn, has the potential to undermine the nation’s voluntary, employer-based health insurance system, adding untold millions to the ranks of the uninsured. Better to put teeth in an administrative review than allow malpractice lawyers to tear the entire health insurance system to shreds."

Chicago Tribune, 6/14/98

"[The Ganske and Norwood bills] need to be understood as preparing the way to make HMOs and health insurers the next pot of gold for trial lawyers. Imagine what the trial bar would do when it discovers it can sue an employer and its insurer because that insurer declined to pay for a certain medical procedure. Insurance costs would rise, the smallest employers would drop coverage altogether, and the quality of care would diminish."

The Wall Street Journal, 6/3/98