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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 16, 1998
                             July 16, 1998

Today, the President joined Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to support passing a strong bipartisan patients' bill of rights this year. Following his meeting yesterday with families, doctors, and nurses at the AMA, the President today reiterated his call on Congress to pass this legislation before adjournment. The Dingell/Ganske patients' rights legislation underscores the need to address health challenge in a bipartisan manner. Today:

The President reiterated his call on Congress to pass a strong enforceable patients' bill of rights before they adjourn. For nine months the President has been calling on Congress to pass a patients' bill of rights that includes: guaranteed access to needed health care specialists; access to emergency room services when and where the need arises; continuity of care protections to ensure that patients' care will not abruptly change if their provider is dropped; access to a timely internal and independent external appeals process for consumers to resolve their differences with their health plans; a limit on financial incentives to doctors to limit care; ensuring that doctors and patients can openly discuss treatment options; and ensuring that women have direct access to an OB-GYN. Any bill of rights should include an enforcement mechanism that ensures recourse for patients who have been maimed or who have died as a result of health plan actions. A right without a meaningful remedy is simply not a right.

The Republicans in the House and the Senate have outlined proposals that fall far short of providing patients the protections they need. After nine months of ignoring the President's call for a strong, enforceable, bipartisan patients' bill of rights, the Republican Leadership has responded with a rhetoric-laced, partisan proposal that places the interests of insurers above the needs of patients. 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 just selling a bill of goods to the American public. The Republican proposals fall short in many areas. For example, they:

Do not guarantee access to specialists. We have heard again and again about patients who could not see oncologists or specialists to treat heart conditions or diabetes. The Republican proposals do not ensure that patients with critical health needs have access to the specialists they need.

Do not limit or require disclosure of financial incentives for doctors. Patients should not be put at risk by unknown destructive financial incentives to limit patient care.

Do 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 Republican Leadership proposals do not have adequate recourse for patients who are maimed or injured by their health plans.

The Senate Republican proposal introduced yesterday contains even fewer patient protections than the proposal in the House. It:

Does not provide over 100 million Americans all of the patient protections they need. The Senate Republican proposal applies only to Americans in self-insured plans and excludes the majority of Americans. Therefore, those tens of million of Americans excluded from these protections would have the rights they need only if every state passed every protection into law.

Does not provide any enforcement provision. This is even worse than the House proposal which contained a weak enforcement mechanism.

The President Remains Committed to Passing a Strong, Enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights in This Congress. The President is committed to working with the Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to provide patients the protections they need.