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Reform Bill's OK Prompts Clashes, Dire Predictions

Not surprisingly, the House of Representatives' 275–161 vote affirming the Norwood-Dingell health care reform bill prompted wailing and gnashing of teeth from the insurance industry. A Health Insurance Association of America study tallied 408 new mandates in the bill — more than double that proposed in Norwood's 1998 legislation, PARCA. The American Association of Health Plans said the House took a "giant step backwards" by passing a bill that "empowers trial attorneys" instead of embracing external review for dispute resolution. And the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, playing on employers' threats to drop coverage if they could be exposed to liability, thought it curious that the same week a report counting 44.3 million uninsured emerged, the House passed a bill with the potential to push that number higher.

A Harris poll finds that 53 percent of Americans think laws allowing suits against plans should be relaxed. Most acknowledge, however, that exposing HMOs to liability would drive up the cost of care.

Phooey, says AAHP, which released its own poll by Ayres, McHenry, & Associates, suggesting that most voters don't give a whit about health care reform. To an open-ended question about issues Congress should deal with, 1,000 registered voters listed HMO regulation 21st.

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