HMO LIABILITY: Senate To Take Up Issue Today
A legislative proposal that has become the "hot-button issue" in this year's elections will be heard in the state Senate today. The Contra Costa Times reports that the Senate "will take up a bill that narrowly squeaked through the Assembly -- one modeled after a Texas law that allows patients to sue their health insurers for medical malpractice" The measure, AB 2436 by Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), "is likely to face a veto by Gov. Pete Wilson" if the Senate approves it, the Times reports (Appleby, 8/4). Today's Senate action will occur in the Judiciary Committee, which will hear testimony from "two patients victimized by HMO care," according to a press release issued by Consumers for Quality Care. "Eight out of ten voters support the right of patients to receive damages against HMOs that injure them and this bill simply says that when HMOs put money over good medicine they are liable," said Jamie Court, director of the consumer advocacy group (Consumers release, 8/3). Click here to read past California Healthline coverage of Figueroa's bill and what supporters and opponents think of it. Or see a related opinion piece in today's issue.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is taking up another HMO reform bill today -- AB 1557. Sponsored by Assemblyman Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park), the bill would require health plans to have a written policy on second medical opinions. But AB 1557 has been newly amended "to prevent HMOs from forcing patients into involuntary, binding arbitration systems." Consumers for Quality Care contends the amendments were added following the American Arbitration Association's "recent decision not to accept binding arbitration for HMO patients because of the abuses exposed at Kaiser" in a recent state Supreme Court ruling. Click here for past coverage of the arbitration issue (Consumers release, 8/3).