Lawsuits Should Not Replace Patients’ Rights Legislation, Washington Post Editorial Says
A "rash" of class-action lawsuits being filed against managed care plans is an attempt by "self-appointed public advocates" to "relieve the legislature of its responsibility" for passing patients' rights legislation, a Washington Post editorial says. The lawsuits -- led by David Boies, former Vice President Al Gore's lawyer during the Florida election controversy, and Richard Scruggs "of tobacco litigation fame and fortune" -- claim that by creating incentives for doctors to cut costs rather than providing services based on patient need as promised, HMOs are "scamm[ing]" patients in a "racketeering enterprise." According to one "silly" lawsuit, such a policy amounts to a "fraudulent scheme to provide [patients] ... less health care coverage than (the companies) disclosed (they) would provide." The Post says that the claims represent a "transparent effort to hijack the policy debate" and that "the parameters of any right of patients to sue [HMOs] are questions that should be decided by the people's elected representatives in Congress." Similar lawsuits were "rejected" by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals 18 months ago. The Post calls on Florida District Judge Federico Moreno, who will hear the current consolidated cases, to "refrain" from going against previous court decisions. The Post says, "[T]he courts properly hear cases only when a real controversy exists between actual parties. That can't include those who bought health care coverage and got it" (Washington Post, 1/28).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.