October 1998 Bulletin

ERISA changes stalled by 'politics of the possible'

As far as Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) is concerned, changes in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow patients to sue managed care organizations is not dead yet. It's just been delayed by "the politics of the possible."

Rep. Norwood was sponsor of the Patient Access to Responsible Care Alliance bill (PARCA) which had enough sponsors to get approved in the House, but the bill was held back by Republican leaders who wanted to craft their own bill. In July, Rep. Norwood gave up on his bill and supported the Republican leadership bill. He explained, in a Washington Post newspaper on-line chat with the public, that "the only reason I tabled PARCA to work on the GOP bill was political reality. The 105th Congress was not going to vote to allow us the ERISA provision. I could have passed PARCA in the House, but that wasn't my goal. My goal was to have a law that could go through the House and Senate that would protect patients and become law.

"I had to give up the ERISA provision to move the process forward. I intend to push the ERISA provisions in the 106th Congress and the 107th and the 108th, if necessary. One must keep in mind that 535 (members of Congress) get an opinion and it turns out to be the politics of the possible."

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