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                      Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Gaborone, Botswana)
For Immediate Release                                     March 31, 1998
                    TO SENATOR THOMAS A. DASCHLE AND
                           Gaborone, Botswana
                             March 31, 1998

Dear Senator Daschle and Representative Gephardt:

I am writing to commend you on the Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 1998 that you are introducing today on behalf of the Democratic Caucuses of both Houses of Congress. This bill represents a critically important step towards enacting a long overdue "Patients' Bill of Rights" that Americans need to renew their confidence in the nation's rapidly changing health care system.

States across the nation have already begun to enact reasonable patient protections. In fact, 44 states, including 28 of the 32 states with Republican Governors, have passed at least one of the protections that my Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality recommended, and that I endorsed last year. However, a patchwork of non-comprehensive state laws cannot provide Americans with adequate patient protections, particularly because state health care laws do not have jurisdiction over more than 100 million Americans. Federal standards are essential to assure that all patients get the protections they need.

You have done a remarkable job bringing a broad-based coalition of Democrats together to move this important issue forward. I would particularly like to commend Senator Kennedy and Representative Dingell for their leadership in developing this legislation.

The Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 1998 includes important patient protections, such as the right to emergency care wherever and whenever a medical emergency arises; the right to talk freely with doctors and nurses about all the medical options available, not only the cheapest; and the right to an internal and external appeals process that allows patients to address their concerns and grievances. I am particularly pleased that it includes every protection recommended by the Advisory Commission. This bill also improves on other patients' rights legislation before the Congress because it does not include expensive protections for health care providers that have the potential to increase premiums excessively.

The bill you are introducing today provides a critical step towards developing bipartisan legislation that will pass the Congress. I look forward to working with the Congress to enact a "Patients' Bill of Rights" Act that I can sign into law this year.

I am confident that, working in a bipartisan fashion, the Congress will produce a bill that achieves the important balance of providing patients the protections they need without under-mining health care affordability. We must ensure that whether they have traditional care or managed care, Americans have access to quality care. Thank you again for your strong leadership and commitment to this end.



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