Archive: A ‘Flip-Flop’ on Patients’ Right to Sue?

Original site:
Excerpt found on
Also on

Justice Department Intercedes to Block Lawsuits under Texas Law
A Bush ‘flip-flop’ on patients’ right to sue?

By Charles Lane
Monday, April 5, 2004; Page A15

On Oct. 17, 2000, in a presidential debate against Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas promised a patients’ bill of rights like the one in his state, including a right to sue managed-care companies for wrongfully refusing to cover needed treatment.

“If I’m the president . . . people will be able to take their HMO insurance company to court,” Bush said. “That’s what I’ve done in Texas and that’s the kind of leadership style I’ll bring to Washington.”

Today, legislation for a federal patients’ bill of rights is moribund in Congress. And the Bush administration’s Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to block lawsuits under the very Texas law Bush touted in 2000.

To let two Texas consumers, Juan Davila and Ruby R. Calad, sue their managed-care companies for wrongful denials of medical benefits “would be to completely undermine” federal law regulating employee benefits, Assistant Solicitor General James A. Feldman said at oral argument March 23.

Moreover, the administration’s brief attacked the policy rationale for Texas’s law, which is similar to statutes on the books in nine other states, arguing that the benefits to patients are outweighed by costs to managed-care companies — which, passed on to employers, “could make employers less willing to provide health benefits.”

“The big story is the total flip-flop here,” said M. Gregg Bloche, a professor of law at Georgetown University who specializes in health care issues.

The White House says there is no contradiction.

AWSOM Powered