HMO LIABILITY: Op-Ed Argues That Benefits Outweigh Costs
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Mark Rothstein of the University of Houston's Health Law and Policy Institute writes that the debate over HMO liability closely mirrors the debate over the minimum wage: Opponents of giving patients the right to sue managed care plans for denying or delaying treatments say that it would increase HMO costs, which would then be passed on to employers. Republicans charge that these higher costs "will lead some employers to stop covering their employees altogether, and will lead other employers to shift additional costs to employees, causing some workers to decline coverage. Thus, the unintended consequence of holding HMOs accountable will be more uninsured Americans." Rothstein argues that in the case of raising the minimum wage, "[a]n increase in the rate of unemployment is an acceptable price to pay for ensuring that those who earn the minimum wage will have a decent standard of living." On a parallel track, even though any regulation of health insurance "will result in marginally increased costs and loss of coverage ... it is hard to argue against requiring physicians to have medical licenses and pharmaceuticals to be tested for safety. The benefits of regulation do outweigh the costs." Rothstein concludes, "A small increase in the number of uninsured is an acceptable price to pay for providing that individuals with health care coverage have a decent level of care" (8/11).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.