Remaining Senators Must Follow Suit: Sell Hospital, Pharmaceutical, Insurance Stock Or Abstain From Votes
Santa Monica, California -- After refusing for two years to admit a conflict of interest, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) has now sold his $10 million to $30 million holdings in the Frist family-founded HCA hospital chain.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) filed an ethics complaint with the United States Senate Ethics Committee last April charging Frist with an irreconcilable conflict of interest for promoting medical malpractice liability limits that would financially benefit HCA, which also owns the nation's fourth largest malpractice insurer.
"Senator Frist sold off his stock to protect his political image, and the rest of the Senate should recognize the implications and do the same," said Carmen Balber, consumer advocate with FTCR. "The motive of every Senator with holdings in a hospital, insurer or pharmaceutical company should conflict them out of a decision affecting those companies' financial interests."
In July, Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) recused himself from voting on legislation that would have limited pharmaceutical companies' liability for selling dangerous drugs because he holds millions in pharmaceutical industry stock. The Senate must now live up to the Sensenbrenner Standard, said FTCR.
FTCR noted, however, that the Senate Majority Leader should still recuse himself from the medical liability debate because his immediate family maintains significant financial interest in HCA. Frist's brother, Thomas, is HCA's largest non-institutional shareholder, with over $200 million in HCA stock, and sits on the company's board.
Frist has been an advocate for legislation to impose a malpractice damage cap and other changes in the medical liability system that would financially benefit HCA, and the company's medical malpractice insurer, Health Care Indemnity (HCI), by limiting their responsibility to compensate patients who are victims of medical negligence.
FTCR has urged Congress to pass strong insurance reform, not limits on victims' rights, to stabilize doctors' increasing malpractice premiums. The group released a report which shows that medical malpractice premiums rose 450% after the passage of a malpractice cap in California, and did not fall or stabilize until the voters approved insurance reform initiative Proposition 103, which included strict rate regulation and a mandatory rate rollback. The report is available online.