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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release January 14,1998

January 14, 1998

Today, the President, the Vice President, and the Congressional Democratic Leadership called on Congress to enact Federally enforceable health care consumer protections before it adjourns this fall.

The Democratic Leaders All Agree That Consumer Bill of Rights Legislation Should Include a Range of Protections Including:

Guaranteed Access To Needed Health Care Providers to ensure that patients are provided appropriate high quality care. This right includes giving women access to qualified providers to cover routine women's health services, providing access to specialists for consumers with complex or serious medical conditions, and ensuring that chronically ill people are protected against sudden changes in provider participation in health plans that threaten continuity of care.

Access to Emergency Services when and where the need arises. This provision requires health plans to cover these emergency services in situations where a prudent layperson could reasonably expect that the absence of care could place their health in serious jeopardy.

Confidentiality of Medical Records to ensure that individually identifiable medical information is not disseminated and to provide consumers the right to review, copy, and request amendments to their own medical records.

Grievance and Appeals Processes for consumers to resolve their differences with their health plans and health care providers -- including an internal and external appeals process.

The Democratic Leaders Underscored Their Belief That These Rights Should Be Protected By Law. To make these rights real for all Americans, the Democratic Leaders stated that these protections would require Federal legislation to establish enforceable rights for consumers. Although many states have passed legislation in this area, this patchwork of protections is not sufficient, particularly because tens of millions of Americans are covered by plans which are not governed by state law.

Democratic Leaders Welcome Republicans Who Share This Vision to Work With Them to Pass Legislation This Year. Many Republicans recognize the need for national, federally-enforceable consumer protections. In fact, legislation sponsored by Congressman Norwood has the support of nearly 100 Republican House Members. In addition, Democrats and Republicans in state legislatures across the country have passed consumer rights legislation into law. Forty-three states have enacted into law one or more of the basic protections outlined above, and over 25 of these states have Republican Governors.