Doctors Oppose Suing HMOs, Says a Managed Care Trade Group

Article excerpt

LOBBYING

In the battle over a patient protection act, the American Association of Health Plans recently pulled a fast one. It released a survey showing that doctors agree with the association on the most contentious protection: medical liability. AAHP claims that doctors believe patients shouldn't be allowed to sue an HMO.

Really?

Ayres McHenry & Associates of Roswell, GA, which was commissioned by AAHP to do the survey, interviewed 400 physicians from across the country. Half were primary care doctors, half were specialists. About a third were members of the AMA.

Seventy-five percent of the physicians said they'd prefer that patients have access to an independent appeals process, while only 17 percent want patients to have the right to sue a health plan. For good measure, Ayres McHenry elicited from doctors a couple of other antiliability opinions. Many said they'd rather see Congress pass a patients' rights act without a liability provision than no bill at all. They believe a liability provision would benefit trial lawyers far more than patients.

"For the past four years, we've heard the constant refrain from some inside-the-beltway spinmeisters that expanded liability represents the best course for improving the health care system," crowed Karen Ignagni, AAHP's president and CEO, when the study was released. "It's time to put this myth to rest by listening to what those on the front lines-American physicians-are saying."

The AMA, obviously one of the spinmeisters" Ignagni had in mind, is unaware that "American physicians" are saying any such thing about a patients' rights act. It's been pushing, pushing, pushing Congress to pass one, and insisting that the act must include the right to hold managed care liable for treatment-related decisions. …