HMO APPEALS: L.A. Times Calls for Middle Ground on ERISA Reform
An editorial in today's Los Angeles Times argues that the time is ripe for instituting key, but moderate reforms to the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act. Groups as varied as the "liberal Urban Institute" and the "conservative Heritage Foundation" recognize the need to close an ERISA loophole that prevents people who receive health coverage through their employers from suing their health plans, and the National Coalition on Health Care is trying to "prod legislators back to a sensible reform path." Unfortunately, however, the Times says ERISA reforms traditionally have kow-towed to special-interest "extremes," such as trial lawyers and managed care executives. But a "middle ground" -- those who believe in "adhering to good medical standards, allowing patients a fair hearing and guaranteeing fast, independent resolution of disputes" -- "does exist and is growing," the Times argues. Both business and government should support these moderate reforms, the Times contends, concluding: "Applying basic patient protections to ERISA plans is the best way to reassure an angry American public. Reforms would also deprive trial lawyers of the cynical argument that only enormous lawsuits will restore Americans' faith in managed care. If honest reforms are blocked, the lawyers' argument will inevitably gain steam" (2/9).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.