Employers Fear Liability Under Patients' Rights Bill
June 26, 2001
The patients'-rights legislation being debated in the Senate is supposed to contain language that would protect employers from increased legal liability. But businesses say those safeguards don't go far enough.
A provision of the bill would let a patient sue a health plan when it makes a decision that harms a patient's health. But businesses say they are also being put in jeopardy.
- The bill would allow patients to sue their employers if those employers directly participate in a health plan's decision that harms or kills a patient -- "direct participation" being defined as making the medical decision in question or exercising control in making that decision.
- Opponents of the bill say that standard is vague and would let patients bring frivolous lawsuits against businesses -- even if the companies aren't involved in making medical decisions.
- Businesses that administer their own plans -- mostly large companies that operate in more than one state -- would be open to lawsuits since they decide what procedures should and shouldn't be covered.
- Employers that pay health-insurance costs themselves but hire a third party to administer the benefits -- typically large, multistate companies -- could be opened to increased liability.
Opponents say the increased cost and hassle of broader liability will prompt employers -- particularly small businesses -- to stop offering health coverage.
Source: Sarah Lueck, "Patients' Rights Legislation Raises Concerns Among Employers About Legal Liability," Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2001.
For text (WSJ subscribers)
Browse more articles on Health Issues