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Read Making a Killing

home / healthcare / in the media

Modern Healthcare
Jul 14, 2003

by Staff Writers

Group questions Frist's HCA ties amid debate over tort reform

With the Senate about to take on the sticky subject of malpractice reform legislation, a California-based consumer advocacy group is asking Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to recuse himself from any action on the bill, saying his family's ties to the country's largest for-profit hospital chain make him a less than impartial observer in the matter.

HCA was founded by Frist's brother and late father, both of the first name Thomas.

Late last week, the Senate voted not to consider a bill favored by Frist that would have set limits on noneconomic damages at $250,000. Consumer groups and Democrats charged that the measure was antipatient.

In a letter to Frist dated July 3, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, based in Santa Monica, Calif., cites the more than $25 million in HCA stock owned by Frist's immediate family as well as the $260 million in malpractice premiums written by Health Care Indemnity, a subsidiary of HCA.

Frist has said in the past that he has no involvement in the business of HCA and that his holdings are in a blind trust. The foundation, however, wants the senator to explain why his position as leader of the Senate would not be at odds with his family's ties with HCA. ''HCI, HCA and your entire family stand to profit directly from the passage of malpractice caps legislation. ... You have
used your prominent public position to be a primary advocate for medical liability caps,'' the letter said.

A spokesman for Frist said the Senate Select Committee on Ethics repeatedly has found the senator has no conflicts of interest.

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