Senate Leaders Reform Plan Is Fool’s Gold
United States Senators Don Nickles, Susan Collins, Phil Gramm and other Republican leaders held a press conference this morning to announce their intentions to push forward a GOP HMO reform plan that provides for medical savings accounts, external reviews and tax deductions, but fails to allow patients to take HMOs to court for damages.
Senator Gramm held up a visa card and said that if consumers could charge care against their medical savings account credit card, patients’ problems would be solved.
“It takes tremendous hypocrisy for senators who have gone to great lengths to try the President for acts stemming from sex not to support the right of injured patients to punish HMOs before a court for charges that amount to murder,” said Jamie Court, director of Consumers For Quality Care. The Santa Monica-based watchdog group faxed a different picture and story of an HMO victim who could not sue for redress to senators for five months during 1998, the “ERISA Casualty of the Day Campaign.”
Court noted that, “The problem of HMO patients who face denials of care will not be solved by more credit on visa cards, tax deductions or bureaucratic levels of review. This plan is fool’s gold. The answer to the plight of the HMO patient rests on accountability before the courts. If President Clinton can be tried publicly, so should HMOs. What’s good enough for the President of the United States, public accountability, should be good enough for the HMO industry.”
Next Wednesday Senator Jeffords will have hearings on the GOP plan, as well as the Department of Labor’s proposed new regulations for patients with employer-paid health care.
125 million Americans will employer-paid health care in the private sector cannot sue their HMOs for damages due to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act or ERISA of 1975. These patients can only receive the cost of the benefit denied.
“If ERISA rules applied to bank robberies, convicted thieves would only have to give back the money they took,” said Court. “It’s no wonder HMOs are getting away with murder.”