2003-06-27 / Community

Smith Urges Senate To Pass HMO Legislation

Smith Urges Senate To Pass HMO Legislation

Senator Malcolm A. Smith has urged the Senate to pass HMO liability legislation.

Smith claims that HMO’s and insurance companies in New York State should be held to the same standard as doctors when it comes to being legally responsible for the medical decisions they make.

"Under current state law, HMO’s are not considered medical practitioners,’ said Senator Smith. "That means they are immune from malpractice actions. But the reality is that HMO’s and insurance companies are making medical decisions every day. That’s why it’s so important that we pass HMO accountability legislation to protect a patient’s right in the unfortunate case of injury or death."

Senator Smith said the measure would hold HMO’s and insurance companies legally responsible for causing injury or death to their patients. The State Assembly overwhelmingly supports HMO liability legislation. What’s more, health care professionals, including the Medical Society of New York, the National Association of Social Workers, the AIDS Coalition, lawyers, and labor groups also support legislation making HMO’s and insurance companies accountable.

"Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to force HMO accountability legislation onto the Senate floor to vote this session," said Senator Smith. "Unfortunately, there are powerful special interests, including New York’s influential insurance lobby, that have successfully prevented HMO liability legislation from becoming law."

"With only a handful of days left in this year’s scheduled legislative session, time is running out to pass meaningful HMO reform," said Senator Smith. "That’s why I’m urging my Senate colleagues to support this legislation and send a message to New York’s profit-driven HMO’s and insurance companies that they will be held accountable to the medical decisions they make."

Senator Smith said that simple fairness dictates that HMO’s and insurance companies be held responsible for their actions. Senate Democrats have criticized the questionable practices of insurance providers who undermine patient care in favor of bigger profits. These practices include routinely denying health care, refusing hospital admissions, rejecting tests deemed necessary by doctors, discharging patients early, and substituting prescriptions without patient consent.

"If any of these practices by HMO’s causes a patient injury or death, the patient or the patient’s family has no legal recourse under state law," said Senator Smith. "That’s an absolute injustice. Our legislation rights this wrong by requiring that insurers be held liable for the harm or personal injury caused by negligence. Without these protections, HMO’s will continue to sacrifice patient care to turn a profit."

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