Washington Initiatives

Kennedy-Dingell Strips Employers' ERISA Immunity


The Kennedy-Dingell bill is fraught with controversy. Introduced March 31, the bill combines Michigan Rep. John Dingell's 1997 health quality bill with the president's consumer bill of rights.

For plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the bill removes their immunity from malpractice liability. This means that ERISA plans, which are exempt from state insurance laws, could be sued for wrongful injury or death. Some senators worry that business might instead choose not to provide certain kinds of coverage, fearing costly legal settlements.

Protest is already in from the Health Insurance Association of America, which sponsored an actuarial analysis concluding that the bill's price controls on certain types of premiums would result in 160,000 people losing coverage. Chances for passage, according to lobbyists: no better than 40 percent.

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