Focus: The Lawyers' Right to
|by Jack Faris, President
& CEO of NFIB|
September 25, 2000 -- A true story: A little
over one year ago, a friend of mine
inadvertently overheard an interesting
conversation at a restaurant in Washington, DC.
The conversation took place among a group of
trial lawyers, most likely in town for some kind
of meeting or convention. The first lawyer was
pontificating about tobacco lawsuits and what
kind of money could be made in that arena when
suddenly one of his colleagues cut him off
mid-stream and said, "Forget about tobacco! Our
real money is going to come from the HMOS." He
was clearly forecasting the future after the
Patients' Bill of Rights becomes law.
was chilled by this story. And you should be,
I was chilled even though I already
knew that the Patients' Bill of Rights had the
potential to increase the cost of health
insurance and therefore increase the ranks of
the 44 million-plus uninsured Americans. I
already knew that it was like so many other
pieces of legislation in Washington, DC- written
with the intention to help, but the ability to
And as a representative of small
business owners, I'd already taken a keen
interest in the raft of legal studies confirming
that, under the Dingell-Norwood bill passed by
the House last year, trial lawyers could not
only sue health plans but also the employers who
sponsor them. And I know that even a frivolous
lawsuit has the potential to put a small firm
out of business.
I also know enough
small employers to know that many would not
continue to put themselves in a high-risk
situation for doing nothing more than
voluntarily providing their employees with
health-care coverage. Many would instead stop
offering health insurance to their workers
But although I knew, and
know, all this... I didn't know that the trial
bar was so far ahead of the game that they were
already looking forward to making money off of
legislation that was allegedly designed to help
people!I suppose I should not have been
What does this desire to sue
and to make money have to do with patients'
rights? Nothing. What does it have to do with
helping those who can't afford health insurance?
Nothing. What does it have to do with greed?
While America's frustration
with managed care is legitimate, lawsuits aren't
the way to improve health care, and trial
lawyers know it. Lawsuits are the way for
lawyers to make money. Period.
And now I
am reading about how much money trial lawyers
are spending on this year's elections...
millions and millions of dollars to help their
pro-litigation friends get elected to Congress.
Some lawyers are running for office themselves,
funding their own campaigns with up to $5
million of their own dollars! For them, it is an
investment. The return, they hope,will be the
power to make even more money than they are
So if you ever
wonder whether trial lawyers are interested in
your ability to afford quality health care or
simply their ability to line their own wallets
and buy politicians, please remember what my
friend heard. And before you throw your support
behind the "Patients' Bill of Rights," please
remember that it has been carefully crafted to
more closely resemble a"Lawyers' Right to
Publications are encouraged to re-print these
columns in their entirety.Please ensure that the
following credit information is included in
re-prints:"Jack Faris is president of NFIB, the
nation's largest small business advocacy group.
A non-profit, non-partisan organization founded
in 1943, NFIB represents the consensus views of
its 600,000 members in Washington, D.C., and all
50state capitals. More information is available
on-line at www.nfib.com."
CONTACT: Jean Card,
NFIB Special assistant to the President at