Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., is cosponsoring an amendment with Senator Phil Gramm, R-Texas, to the Patient's Bill of Rights. The amendment would protect employers who provide their employees with health insurance from lawsuits.
The amendment to the Kennedy-McCain-Edwards bill would ensure that employers would not be sued for the decisions of a health insurance company. Already in the bill are provisions that protect doctors and hospitals from lawsuits. It also removes the bait-and-switch language of the Kennedy Bill, and encourages employers to continue providing health care coverage to their employees.
"As the bill stands now, it appears that around every corner there's an exception swallowing the rule. And the exceptions purported to protect employers are swallowed too. I'm not a lawyer but I am an accountant. I can tell you this adds up to employers scaling back, even dropping the coverage they now provide. This is not how we protect patients," said Enzi.
The amendment also states that, in addition to excluding physicians, other health care professionals and hospitals from liability, employers should not be sued for the mistakes made by HMOs.
"The fact of the matter is that people working for small businesses know they are lucky to have insurance in the first place and, in trying to enrich the personal choice for a few employees, we may well end up cutting off access to others if we don't fix the Kennedy bill," said Enzi. Enzi supported another amendment, offered yesterday by Senators Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark. The amendment would have ended the inequity between the self-employed and big businesses by making 100 percent of health care premiums tax deductible for individuals who work for themselves in 2002. The amendment was defeated 52-45 in a parliamentary maneuver.
"Fifty-two people here, two more than needed, said they weren't going to give the self-employed the same right to deduct insurance that we give to the big corporations. And then we wonder why the small business, the single proprietor who hires four or five people, doesn't provide insurance. We wonder why those that do provide insurance are worried about liability,"said Enzi
Enzi said both Republicans and Democrats want to enact legislation to protect patients and they agree on 80 percent of what is in the bill, but there are major flaws in the Kennedy bill that must be corrected.
"I'll say again for the fourth day and for the fourth year, I want to pass a patients' bill of rights and see it signed into law by the President. Both sides want to have patients' bill of rights. Patients should be foremost in this debate, and that should remain our focus. In our effort to meet that goal, we do need to make a number of modifications to the underlying bill. Twenty percent of the bill is messed up, and it needs to be fixed. I believe that we can do that," said Enzi
A vote on the employer liability amendment is scheduled for Tuesday.