The managed care reform bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia is gaining momentum — at least, within the halls of Congress. Norwood allies have polled, informally, rank-and-file House Republicans and found growing support for his Patient Access to Responsible Care Act, or PARCA. Tangible evidence: The bill has more than 200 co-sponsors.
But in a speech to the American Association of Health Plans, House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Congress should deal with the larger issue of the direction of health care before it takes up specific HMO issues. Gingrich wants time for the GOP task force on health care quality, which he set up, to come up with its own recommendations for a health care consumer bill of rights.
Undaunted, Norwood vows to press ahead, regardless of Gingrich and in spite of employer concerns and HMO resentment about what's viewed as the real bone of contention: provisions permitting patients to sue health plans if denied care. The Health Benefits Coalition issued a report saying it would cost insurance companies $1 billion each year in jury verdicts and lawyers' fees, based on physicians' experiences with malpractice suits.