HMO LIABILITY: Senate Comm. Approves Punitive Damages Suits
A measure, sponsored by state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), to allow Californians to sue HMOs for punitive damages, passed a "key state Senate committee Thursday" by a single vote, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Figueroa, whose bill "never made it to the floor last year," said more legislators have heard "horror stories from constituents regarding lack of care," resulting in increased interest in the measure. The bill, which follows a San Bernardino County jury's $120 million verdict against Aetna U.S. Healthcare in January, would reverse a law that permits Californians to sue HMOS only for the costs of treatments denied. Cory Black of the California Association of Health Plans, which opposes the measure, said that "requiring independent review would be a faster and less costly way to resolve disputes over treatment." Gov. Gray Davis said while campaigning last year that he supported the right to sue HMOs for malpractice. The bill will be voted on by the full Senate this week (Ostrom, 5/28).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.