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Feb 29, 2004
by MIKE MORROW, Staff Writer
Frist family businessA consumer group went after Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist on the malpractice insurance issue last week, saying it created a conflict of interest for the surgeon from Nashville.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, based in Santa Monica, Calif., said the tort reform bill in the Senate last week "would create a direct financial benefit for the Frist family-founded HCA hospital chain, and the company's medical malpractice insurer, Health Care Indemnity (HCI)."
The Senate voted on a measure Tuesday aimed at capping awards for pain and suffering in cases involving obstetricians, gynecologists and maternity programs. The vote was 48-45, as Republicans fell 12 votes short of 60 votes required to shut off a Democratic filibuster.
Frist, the Senate majority leader whose father and brother founded Nashville-based HCA, said he would be back again with the effort.
The consumer group, at consumerwatchdog.org, had said it would call for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation if Frist did not step aside on the issue.
In a letter to Sen. Frist, the group said, "Senate financial disclosures reveal that you and your immediate family own at least $25 million in HCA stock and your inheritance is clearly dependent on the success of the financial fortunes of the company."
The Bloomberg News Service reported that rising insurance premiums forced the closing of the maternity ward at HCA's Aventura Hospital and Medical Center near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and that the bill's supporters said rising premiums may threaten other facilities.
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