Compromise Could Endanger More Generous State Law Reforms
The composition of the conference committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate meeting today to discuss HMO reform is unfairly tilted toward the HMO industry and against the patient, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.
While the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2723, a strong patients’ bill of rights, including the right to punitive damages, in the fall of 1999 with bi-partisan support, the a majority of the House members on the conference committee (11 of 21) opposed the bill (9 supported the bill and one abstained.)
“A committee stacked with Congressman who do not support the will of the House of the Representatives to allow patients punitive damages against HMOs is destined to disappoint the American people and produce a placebo, not a remedy, for the epidemic of HMO abuse,” said Jamie Court, FTCR advocacy director. “This is the worst case of political manipulation this session in defense of a retrenched HMO and insurance industry that has a shield against prosecution that no other industry has.”
Court also cautioned that a “compromise” bill could comprise stronger state laws, such as the right to sue law recently enacted in California, which gives patients the right to unlimited punitive and compensatory damages.
“Either capping damages or limiting access to justice for only those who are significantly harmed will do violence to more generous state common law and statutes that give patients, who not precluded by federal law from suing for damages, the right to full remedies,” said Court. “Congress should not take rights from a group of patients not limited by ERISA to give half-remedies to those now precluded under ERISA from holding their HMOs accountable.”
FTCR is a non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group based in Santa Monica, CA. See its daily updates at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org.