MANAGED CARE: Doctor Wins Suit Against HMO
"A doctor who claimed he was fired by a managed health care group for insisting on putting patients ahead of profits won a landmark victory yesterday when a San Diego jury awarded him $1.75 million in damages," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The jury ruled that the Children's Associated Medical Group pay $1.1 million and the group's president Dr. Irvin Kaufman pay $650,000 because they "squeezed out" Dr. Thomas Self "when he refused to compromise his quality of care." The jury also found that the medical group and Kaufman "acted with malice in defaming and firing Self and violated a state law protecting doctors from retaliation for advocating appropriate treatment." Self's lawyers argued their client "was forced repeatedly to resist pressures to spend less time on patient visits and curtail tests and other treatment." The medical group fired him in 1995. "Lawyers for Kaufman and the medical group declined to comment about yesterday's verdict, saying the case is not over," the Union-Tribune reports.
"Although the case is not concluded and the verdicts are subject to appeal," the Union-Tribune reports that "opponents of managed care ... quickly claimed a monumental moral victory." Consumers for Quality Care Director Jamie Court said, "This is definitely the first time in the state and probably in the country that a doctor has successfully beaten a medical corporation under the contention that he was fired for refusing to compromise on patient care." However, witnesses testifying for the defense "primarily talked about Self's dismissal being a business decision based on what they considered an excessive amount of tests" (Callahan/McKinnie, 4/7).