Alliance Fights Managed Care Regulation

Article excerpt

Business groups and health insurance companies declared war on proposed managed care regulations yesterday, targeting bipartisan legislation that would mandate consumer protections and make it easier to sue insurers.

The coalition released the first in a $1 million series of newspaper and magazine advertisements warning that several health plans want to pass laws it claims would drive up insurance costs and make it harder for employers to offer coverage.

"If Congress attempts to fix the system through legislation, they will literally do no better than promising yesterday's medicine to tomorrow's patients," Tony Burns, chief executive of truck rental company Ryder System Inc., said during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

The Health Benefits Coalition against further regulation is lead by the Business Roundtable of more than 200 Fortune 500 chief executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other trade groups that represent more than 3 million employers.

The coalition also includes Aetna Inc., Prudential HealthCare and several other large insurance companies that have blamed recent financial setbacks on the cost of new government mandates.

The group is taking aim at the consumer bill of rights proposed by a health care quality commission appointed by President Clinton. The bill would impose a series of standards on health plans intended to ensure access to care.

The coalition's most immediate goal, backed by several GOP leaders, is the defeat of more sweeping managed care bills co-sponsored by Republicans Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York and Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia. Their legislation would make managed care insurers vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits and allow patients to see doctors outside their health plans.

In a separate news conference, the Healthcare Leadership Council, a group of chief executives from top health care companies, urged Congress to let the marketplace work to ensure that Americans have access to top medical services. …