HMO REFORM: Aetna Verdict Spurs Right-to-Sue Speculation
Major health care players say yesterday's "stinging" verdict against Aetna U.S. Health Care of California may "heat up the debate over patients' rights to sue" HMOs, the Los Angeles Times reports. Harvard University health policy expert Robert Blendon said, "This will move the whole debate (over HMO accountability) back on the front burner" (Marquis, 1/22). State Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), who has a bill pending that would allow Californians to sue their HMOs, said the case shows that nongovernment workers should have the same right as government workers to sue their HMOs. "There are two sets of rules, one for government workers, and one for nongovernment workers. Most people don't even know they have the right to sue." The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Figueroa's bill, which last year was defeated, "has a better chance of passing" this year "in the hands" of Gov. Gray Davis, who is "believed to be more sympathetic to HMO reform measures." Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, "said it would be a mistake if verdicts such as this one led lawmakers to expand the right to sue health plans." He said, "The goal ought to be how to avert these tragedies, not how to pay for them after the fact" (Russell, 1/22). The Times reports that Aetna officials say they will "vigorously appeal" the case (1/22). Click here for past coverage of the case.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.