MANAGED CARE REFORM: Does Gingrich Want Right To Sue?
Today's Wall Street Journal reports that "[a]gitated business and managed-care lobbyists are scrambling to ensure that House Speaker Newt Gingrich [R-GA] doesn't endorse a controversial measure to make it easier for patients to sue their health plans." On two occasions this week, Gingrich "has made favorable comments about the idea of holding plans responsible if patients are hurt by improper denials of treatment." Speaking Tuesday at a fundraiser organized by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield Association, the House Speaker "told health plan lobbyists that, in effect, those who are making medical decisions -- whether they are physicians or health-plan administrators -- should be held responsible for those decisions." Gingrich also raised the liability issue when he told the House GOP task force on health reform this week "to take a bolder approach." According to the Journal, Gingrich's "interest in the managed-care liability provision shocked some members of the task force, who consider it an invitation to litigation." One industry lobbyist said, "the business community is terrified that liability may be in the package" being developed by the House task force.
Not Clear What He Wants
An aide to Gingrich "said Wednesday that the Speaker wasn't calling for expansion of managed-care liability." Instead, the aide said Gingrich was "making the general point that 'accountability and liability should flow to and from the individual who makes the decision'" (McGinley, 5/22).
Task Force Left Wondering
Today's CongressDaily/A.M. reports that Gingrich's insistence that the House GOP health care task force develop a "bolder vision" has "left members both more confused and more determined to advance or block competing visions of how to improve managed care without wrecking the health care system." Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the chair of the GOP group, said, "What the Speaker was concerned about is if we put a bill out there that has certain components that lead to more government bureaucracy" (Norton, 5/22). According to sources familiar with Gingrich's instructions to the task force, the Speaker's "comments appeared to reflect his interest in possibly changing the tax code to reduce reliance on the nation's employer-based insurance system" (Wall Street Journal, 5/22).