Kudos to Congressman Shadegg and his ERISA-reform efforts

Yesterday Congressman John Shadegg introduced to the press Florence Corcoran, whose baby was killed by an ERISA insurance company. Congressman Shadegg has been on the right side of this issue for a while now and deserves kudos for championing the cause in the halls of Congress. While it is clear his immediate motivation is to raise the issue to oppose current health care reform efforts on the Democratic side, the fact is he’s correct that those efforts will be an exercise in futility if ERISA is left untouched. Here’s some of yesterday’s press conference:

Now of course, the insurance industry will tell you that if you are going to hold them accountable for things like fraud and wrongful death, they just can’t do business on those terms. We’ve heard it before, and now we’ve heard it again. Here’s the response to Congressman Shadegg from ERIC, the ERISA Industry Committee:

The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC), the Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing America’s major employers, strongly opposes a proposal by Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) to subject employers’ Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans to a patchwork quilt of state remedies and laws. Representative Shadegg earlier today held a press conference where he called on Congress to eliminate ERISA’s preemption clause and allow state-based remedies.

In response to Shadegg’s comments, ERIC President Mark Ugoretz warned that, “if Congress were to allow state litigation of ERISA plans, employers potentially could face thousands of lawsuits, under dozens of legal frameworks, resulting in a litigation nightmare.

Healthcare is a national not a state-by-state issue and must be dealt with in a nationally uniform system — anything less results in healthcare chaos. Employer-provided healthcare coverage cannot survive if it is subjected to a patchwork of enforcement, remedies, and compliance rules by 50 states and a kind of product liability litigation. For the vast majority of employers, health care coverage is not a product, it is a benefit offered to employees. Employers, many of whom are struggling to offer health coverage to their employees, cannot provide health care coverage if they are subject to a patchwork of rules and multiple lawsuits in state courts.”


Ugoretz further warned that, “any change in the law relating to ERISA-governed plans would result in a retreat from offering healthcare coverage for millions of Americans who rely on ERISA-governed plans for their health care needs. Such a proposal would drive up already escalating health care costs that ultimately will be passed on to employees. That new burden would amount to a ‘litigation tax’ on all of an employer’s employees to pay for lawsuits initiated by a few.”

So there you have it. As long as we can commit fraud with utterly no consequences, as long as we can kill people with utterly no consequences, as long as we can offer insurance but deliver fake, illusory, empty promises, we’re happy to do business with you. Otherwise, no sale.

Congressman Shadegg, as well as these other members of Congress who appeared at his press conference in support, deserve kudos: Senator Tom Coburn; Representative Jack Kingston; Representative Phil Roe; Representative Lee Terry; Representative Louie Gohmert; Representative Phil Gingrey; Representative Sue Myrick; Representative Steve King; Representative Mark Souder; Representative Todd Akin; Representative Jean Schmidt; Representative Paul Broun; Representative Lynn Westmoreland; and Representative Jim Jordan.

These folks are all Republicans.

I’m a Democrat and on this issue I profoundly disagree with my party leaders and their silence.

I think I’ll sit down and write a few letters.