NU Online News Service, June 24, 8:50 p.m.–Minneapolis
The National Association of Health Underwriters, Washington, asked members here for its annual convention to call and e-mail Congress immediately to support efforts by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, to amend S. 283, a major managed care bill that is now on the Senate floor.
Gramm wants to change S. 283, the Kennedy-McCain managed care bill, to eliminate a provision that could expose sponsors of employee health plans to liability lawsuits when the sponsors are “directly involved with denials of care.”
Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, and John McCain, I-Ariz., the sponsors of the bill, say the provision would have little practical effect on employers that buy health coverage from insurers or hire third-party administrators to run self-funded plans. But Republican Senate leaders, and health insurance and employer groups say the provision could create huge problems for employers, because it would make the degree of an employer’s involvement in care a “triable fact.” Patients’ lawyers could use their ability to drag employers into court to force even employers with strong cases to agree to out-of-court settlements, opponents of the provision argue.
Opponents say the employer liability provision could gut the entire private U.S. health insurance system, by scaring employers away from the system.