ERISA: Physician Insurers Oppose Liability Change
Removing the provision in the Employment Retirement Income Security Act that prevents patients from suing their health plans is "not the right fix" for problems in health maintenance organizations, the Physician Insurers Association of American said Tuesday. The group of physician-owned medical malpractice insurance companies came out against the elimination of the ERISA malpractice preemption after a study by industry analysts showed that lifting the provision could have an adverse impact on physician and hospital compensation and result in skyrocketing legal costs for health plans.
"Lifting the ERISA provision is a short-term solution to a problem that has ominous long-term implications for physicians," said PIAA President Lawrence Smarr. Changes in ERISA would "simply divert badly needed money from the health care system to the pockets of trial attorneys," Smarr said. The PIAA urged Congress not to eliminate the preemption "in the context of HMO reform." If Congress does eliminate the preemption, Smarr said the move would "increase health care costs, further erode physician professional autonomy [and] encourage more lawsuits" (PIAA release, 5/12). For more information, contact PIAA at (301) 947-9000.