|House bill could
|By Dan Danner
If you receive your health care
through your employer -- as most insured
Americans do -- the recent passage of the
Dingell-Norwood legislation in the House of
Representatives should have you worried. You
might gain the right to sue, but your health
care might be on the line as a result.
As the No. 1 provider of health
coverage, employers fear the Dingell-Norwood
bill would threaten their ability to continue to
provide health benefits to their employees.
Unfortunately, employers' concerns have been
marginal in this important debate.
expanding liability to health plans and, for the
first time, to the employers who sponsor them,
the Dingell-Norwood bill would open up new
territory ripe for litigating but wrong for a
system that, despite its problems, still
provides the best health care in the world.
For the average business owner, it means
that even if you pay a fair wage, treat your
employees with respect and voluntarily provide
health care benefits for them, you no longer
have any protection from the frivolous lawsuits
that have become the bread and butter of many
trial attorneys. Unfortunately, long drawn-out
lawsuits do not help patients get the care they
need when they need it, and research shows that
trial lawyers, not patients, walk away with most
of the money from malpractice suits.
likely epidemic of litigation this kind of
legislation would generate also would
significantly impact most employers' ability to
provide health insurance, creating an impossible
choice for employers. They could continue to
provide health care coverage and risk losing
their businesses in a costly lawsuit, or stop
offering health care coverage altogether.
In fact, according to a survey of small
business owners, six out of 10reported they
would be forced to stop providing coverage
rather than face this risk. So, if
Dingell-Norwood becomes law, patients might gain
the right to sue, but lose their health
insurance or pay more for their coverage in the
process. Add already rising health care costs to
this new threat of expensive litigation, and
it's clear that this provision is a prescription
The Census Bureau recently
reported that the number of uninsured Americans
has climbed to 44.3 million. The only good news
in the Census figures was that employers
provided health care coverage to significantly
more Americans last year. However, if
Dingell-Norwood becomes law, this trend would
most definitely reverse -- swelling the number
of uninsured even more and threatening the
employer-provided health care coverage now
enjoyed by more than 150 million Americans.
Real health care quality begins with
covering as many people as possible --not
forcing millions more into the ranks of the
uninsured. We hope the final legislation that
comes out of the conference committee will not
pull the rug out from under America's
employer-sponsored health care system or the
millions of employees who depend on it.
Dan Danner is chairman of the Health
Benefits Coalition, which has sponsored several
ads critical of patients' rights bills.