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Dingell Pushes Patients’ Rights Bill

July 7, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. John Dingell disputed the Bush administration’s claim that patients’ rights legislation will be a boon to lawyers who want to get rich by filing lawsuits.

Republicans’ claims are ``a gross and deliberate misrepresentation,″ Dingell, D-Mich., said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address Saturday.

``Trial lawyers will not benefit from our bill. Patients will,″ he said.

The Senate-passed version of the bill backed by Democrats promises new health care protections for millions of Americans and offers them the ability to sue their health maintenance organizations.

President Bush said he will veto a bill that includes the liability provisions of the Senate version. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is promising a GOP plan that is ``much more balanced.″

The Democratic bill sets no limits in federal court suits for losses of wages, pain and suffering and has a $5 million cap on punitive damages.

Dingell drew a comparison between the Senate bill and patients’ rights legislation enacted in Texas in 1997, saying it resulted in the filing of only 17 lawsuits.

``Lawyers in Texas aren’t getting rich by filing lawsuits against negligent HMOs, but patients are getting better treatment,″ said Dingell.

Democrats believe patients should have the right to sue insurers in state as well as federal courts.

``The president would prefer all lawsuits involving negligent HMOs be handled in federal court, where injured patients would have to travel far from home,″ said Dingell.

Republicans argue that the Democratic bill would cause employers offering insurance to their workers to drop the coverage for fear of becoming a lawsuit target.

Dingell said employers won’t be saddled with frivolous lawsuits under the Senate bill because only those who make medical decisions could be held responsible.

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