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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 15, 1998
                    THAN A PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS

                              July 15, 1998

After nine months of ignoring the President's call for a strong enforceable, bipartisan patients' bill of rights, the Senate Republicans have responded with a rhetoric-laced, partisan proposal that places the interests of insurers above the needs of patients. The proposal, for which there continues to be no legislative language, falls far short of ensuring that health plans provide patients with basic health care needs. The fact that Republicans have yet to introduce a bill with less than 40 days left in this Congress raises serious questions as to whether they are truly committed to passing a bill of rights or selling a bill of goods to the American public. The Republican proposal falls short in many areas. For example, it:

Does not provide the majority of Americans all of the patient protections they need. The Republican proposal, however inadequate, applies only to Americans in self-insured plans, thus excluding the majority of Americans. Therefore, those tens of millions of Americans excluded from these protections would have the rights they need only if every state passed every protection into law.

Does not guarantee access to specialists. Ensuring access to needed specialists is an absolutely essential protection. We have heard again and again about patients who could not see oncologists or specialists to treat heart conditions or diabetes. The Senate Republicans do not ensure that patients with critical health needs have access to the specialists they need.

Does not limit or require disclosure of financial incentives for doctors. Patients should not be put at risk through unknown destructive financial incentives to limit patient care. The Senate Republican proposal explicitly does not provide patients this important protection.

Does not compensate patients who are maimed or who die as a result of a wrongful health plan action. A right without a remedy is simply not a right. The Senate Republican proposal does not provide any recourse for patients who are maimed or injured by their health plans. Because it has no enforcement provision, plans that ignore the patient protections would not be held accountable. This provision is even weaker than the House Republican proposal.

The President Remains Committed to Passing a Strong Enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights in This Congress.