Consumer Advocates Challenge Rep. Lazio: Support Patients’ Right To Sue HMO In September or Waive Own Right To Sue

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Gov’t Employees Not Limited Like Private Sector Employees On HMO Lawsuits: Husband of HMO Victim Tells Of HMO Abuse

Albany, NY — Consumer advocate Jamie Court today called upon Congressman Rick Lazio to either vote for the patient’s right to sue in Congress this September or sign a waiver of his own right to file a claim against an HMO. As a government employee, Lazio is not limited in his right to sue an HMO like patients with private sector employer-paid coverage.

Court mailed an official waiver to Lazio and two other members of New York’s Congressional delegation who voted against the bi-partisan HMO patients’ bill of rights, known as the Norwood -Dingell legislation. The House of Representatives is expected to vote again on patients’ rights legislation in September. Court noted that Lazio’s vote is significant because he may become the United States Senator from New York and the “Patient’s Bill of Rights” failed in the U.S. Senate by one vote this past June.

Accompanying Court, the New York Public Interest Research Group and other advocates at an Albany, NY press conference this morning was Chuck Packevicz, the husband of a Saratoga Springs, NY woman who had difficulty getting approval for a liver transplant from her HMO until the company found out she was a government employee and could sue for damages.

Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, explained that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA, which precludes 125 million private sector employees from recovering damages, does not apply to government employees like Lazio. Lazio already opposed the bi-partisan Norwood-Dingell legislation, that would reform ERISA, in the fall of last year.

“If Congresswoman Lazio is unwilling to change his vote, he should be willing to subject himself to the same limited remedies as his constituents,” said Court, co-author of Making A Killing: HMOs and the Threat To Your Health (Common Courage Press, 1999). “Anything less would be hypocritical. All patients need the same big stick of a lawsuit to threaten their HMOs as some government workers have today. Representative Lazio must put the public interest above HMOs’ interests.”

“I recognize that it is unfair for me as a public servant to have greater remedies against an HMO than my constituents,” the waiver mailed to Lazio today reads. The waiver continues, “I pledge to support the federal, bi-partisan HMO patients’ bill of rights (known as the Norwood-Dingell legislation) when it comes before me for a vote or I will waive my own legal remedies as a government worker against my HMO or health insurer. I voluntarily subject myself to the limits of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA in any lawsuit I may try to file on behalf of myself or my family against an HMO or insurer, although ERISA does not cover government employees.”

The Foundation For Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a non-profit, non-partisan consumer watchdog group based in Santa Monica, CA. Making A Killing can be found on the Internet at


Consumer Watchdog
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Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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