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Sep 13, 2000
by Al Cross, C-J Political Writer
Insurance-Reform Group Criticizes Northup's HMO VotesA non-profit group pressing for a patients' bill of rights said in Louisville yesterday that U.S. Rep. Anne Northup should change her vote on the issue or give up her right to sue HMOs - a right government employees have but most Americans don't.
Northup ''should be willing to subject herself to the same limited remedies as her constituents,'' said Jamie Court, executive director of The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a California group that pushes for insurance reform.
Northup, a Louisville Republican, said she would be willing to give up her right to sue if there was a law guaranteeing that HMO decisions could be appealed to an outside doctor - an idea she has supported as an alternative to court action.
Northup is seeking re-election in the 3rd District against Democratic state Rep. Eleanor Jordan.
The foundation is tax-exempt and thus plays no role in partisan politics, said its president, Harvey Rosenfield. But the group has targeted eight Republican members of Congress who are in high-profile races or who Democrats think are among the most vulnerable in the Nov. 7
''Anne Northup has been one of the HMOs' biggest defenders in Congress,'' Court said.
Northup said, ''I do think it's important to hold HMOs accountable, but the choice is how you do that.''
Last year Northup voted for a Republican bill that would have allowed lawsuits only in federal court, and with non-economic damages - such as pain and suffering - limited to $ 500,000 or two times the economic loss, whichever was less. Punitive damages would have been allowed
in limited cases.
The bill was an alternative to the one that passed with strong bipartisan support. It would allow suits in state court, generally without limits, except for punitive damages.
The House-passed bill has not become law because of an impasse with the Senate.
Northup said the bill would lead to more lawsuits and make coverage less affordable as insurance companies spend more on lawyers.
Court said that hasn't happened in states that have expanded rights to sue because ''HMOs are acting more responsibly to avoid lawsuits.''
Court said his group is putting pressure on Northup partly because Humana or its officials have given her campaign $ 5,550, and a change on her part would prompt others to switch.
Northup said the money she has received from Humana ''is minuscule compared to the contributions I've gotten from every single part of my district, to the community health-care dollars I've brought in.'' She said she had obtained $ 3.5 million for a new clinic in the Park
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