AAHP Targets McCain-Kennedy Bill
The American Association of Health Plans, which supports neither the patients' rights proposal by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) nor the one by Sens. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), James Jeffords (R-Vt.) and John Breaux (D-La.), has "clearly targeted the [former] for harsher criticism," saying it would increase physicians' vulnerability to lawsuits, CongressDaily reports. During a briefing Friday, AAHP President and CEO Karen Ignagni labeled the McCain-Kennedy-Edwards bill an "extremist approach and hardly the middle ground," adding that the Frist-Jeffords-Breaux measure was an "improvement, but we're still concerned." Under the Frist-Jeffords-Breaux proposal, patients could sue health plans only in federal court, not state court, and awards would be capped at $500,000. The McCain-Kennedy-Edwards bill would cap awards in federal court at $5 million, but would permit patients to sue in state courts, where damages are unlimited. AAHP released a study Friday, which concludes that the McCain-Kennedy-Edwards bill creates a greater liability risk for physicians, because it would "federalize tort law and allow plaintiffs to sue for alleged negligence 'in the performance of a duty under the terms and conditions of the plan.'" On the other hand, the Frist-Jeffords-Breaux bill would allow lawsuits to be brought only against a "designated decision maker," which according to AAHP, "would be more likely to be [an MCO] than a physician." However, Thomas Reardon, immediate past president of the American Medical Association, called AAHP's arguments a "smokescreen," saying that "physicians have always been liable" ((Fulton, CongressDaily, 5/18). The AAHP study can be found at the association's target="blank" Web site.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.