Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles last week vetoed a controversial bill that would have made it easier for HMO patients to sue when denied treatments deemed appropriate by their physicians.
Small business and HMO groups claimed victory and said the bill would have made managed care more expensive and caused an explosion of medical malpractice lawsuits.
But a spokesman for the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers said the veto will leave patients with fewer legal options and give HMOs less incentive to provide quality care.
Chiles, an ardent managed-care supporter, said the state can fine HMOs up to $250,000 for refusing to provide care deemed necessary by a state review board that handles HMO grievances.
Meanwhile, Chiles allowed another controversial bill to become law by not signing it. The bill, which becomes effective July 1, will allow for-profit hospital chains in Florida to acquire or lease former public hospitals that have converted to private, not-for-profit facilities. About 40 of the state's 220 hospitals are former public hospitals (May 27, p. 20).
Under the old law, public hospitals that converted to not-for-profits could sell or lease only to other not-for-profits.
In a surprise move, Chiles also vetoed a bill supported by Florida hospitals that would have eliminated the state's rate review process.
"Many hospitals offer fixed discounts on their charges," Chiles said. "Even with a constant discount rate, the cost for the customers will increase when hospital charges increase. Until a true market-driven price competitive system is developed for healthcare, repeal....is premature at this time."