Supporters Blame Labor Leader for Defeat of Bill to Allow HMO Patients to Bypass Mandatory Arbitration
Supporters of a failed bill (SB 458) that would have allowed patients to bypass mandatory arbitration and file lawsuits against HMOs in some case of care denials say that a Los Angeles County labor leader is responsible for the defeat, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 6/27). On a motion to pass the bill, the Assembly Health Committee last week voted 6-6 with eight members abstaining, effectively killing the measure. The committee voted to reconsider the bill at a later time (California Healthline, 6/20). Before the vote, Miguel Contreras, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, lobbied members of the committee who had received union support during their campaigns to vote against the bill. Contreras said that he opposed the measure because union members support the arbitration process. However, Jamie Court, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights, called Contreras' opposition "counter to workers' interests" (Sacramento Bee, 6/27). Court noted that many other labor organizations supported the bill and said that Contreras urged its defeat because he had formed a "partnership" with Kaiser Permanente (Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights release, 6/26). He said that Contreras opposed the bill to win "workplace concessions from Kaiser." Many health care industry officials opposed the bill in the belief that it would allow trial lawyers to "exploit emotional cases to win large jury awards," resulting in higher health care costs, the Bee reports. Contreras denied the claim, saying, "Our concern was not Kaiser or improving the chances of trial lawyers getting multimillion-dollar awards. We did what was best for our members" (Sacramento Bee, 6/27).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.