- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 7, 2001

In his April 1 letter to the editor, the immediate past president of the American Medical Association (AMA), Thomas R. Reardon, left out a critical element of the managed care debate (“Opponents of patients´ bill of rights show no shame”). Employers and the public emphatically oppose holding employers who voluntarily provide health care coverage liable for medical decisions. While it sounds absurd, this is exactly what current legislation in Congress seeks to do.

No one disputes that expanded employer liability will drive up health care costs and the number of uninsured Americans. The only question is by how much. Based on the results of similar legislation at the state level, the answer is “too much.” For instance, since opening up employers to more health care lawsuits, Arizona has witnessed a 6 percent increase in premiums on top of a 15 percent increase caused by health care inflation.

The AMA´s position is at odds with that of many of its own members. Because of soaring malpractice jury verdicts, physicians´ medical malpractice insurance premiums are going through the roof, forcing many doctors to quit their practices. Doctors around the country are lobbying to remove trial lawyers from the health care arena, while the AMA is trying to give them a bigger seat at the table.

Nationwide, employers, especially small businesses, are facing a double-digit increase in health care costs this year even without the threat of more lawsuits. Faced with additional costs and expanded liability, many employers may be forced to drop coverage for their employees. Employers provide good health care coverage to 173 million Americans. Let´s not allow lawyers to “doctor” this successful health care system.


THOMAS J. DONOHUE

President and chief executive officer

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washington

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