THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCES HE WILL VETO REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP PATIENTS'BILL OF RIGHTS AND THAT FEDERAL HEALTH PLANS CONTINUE TO IMPLEMENT PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS August 10, 1998
Today, the President will outline the inadequacies of the Gingrich/Lott patients' bills of rights, showing that they have more loopholes than protections. He will announce that if Congress sends him such flawed legislation, he will veto it. While the Republican Leadership stalls on passing a real patients' bill of rights, the President continues to implement patient protections for the 85 million Americans in federal health plans. The Office of Personnel Management is releasing today a new regulation to prohibit gag rules, as part of its efforts to meet the President's directive to bring all Federal health plans into compliance with the patients' bill of rights. Today, the President will:
ANNOUNCE HE WILL VETO THE GINGRICH-LOTT PROPOSALS THAT ARE MORE LOOPHOLES THAN PATIENT PROTECTIONS. The President will say that these Republican proposals:
Contain Empty Promises. Many of the provisions in the Republican plans are symbolic gestures rather than real patient protections. As the American Nurses Association says: "Republican leaders who promise protection from managed care abuses for patients only deliver slogans for the patients and protections for the managed care industry." For example these bills:
Let HMOs, not health professionals, define medical necessity. The
Republican Leadership proposals provide for an external appeals process, but make this process meaningless by allowing HMOs themselves, rather than independent health professionals, to define what services are medically necessary. This loophole will make it very difficult for patients to prevail on an appeal to get the treatment their doctors believe they need.
Allow financial incentives to threaten critical patient care. The
Republican legislation purports to protect patients from financial incentives to limit care, but applies this protection in only a very narrow set of circumstances. The bills thus leave most patients, in most health care settings, vulnerable to financial incentives that limit patient care. By pretending remove those incentives, while allowing them to go forward, the Republican Leadership bills mislead patients as to the risks of improper care.
Leave Out Essential Protections For Patients. The Republican Leadership proposals fail to include several critical patient protections. The National Breast Cancer Coalition, raising concerns about the absence of important protections, says that "if these bills are enacted, it could be devastating for the thousands of women who undergo breast cancer treatment every year." The Republican Leadership proposals:
Fail to guarantee direct access to specialists. The Republican Leadership proposals fail to ensure that patients with serious health problems have direct access to the specialists they need. For example, patients with cancer or heart disease may be denied access to the doctors they need to treat their conditions.
Fail to protect patients from abrupt health care changes. The
Republican Leadership bills fail to assure continuity of care when an employer changes health plans. This deficiency means that pregnant women or individuals undergoing care for a chronic illness may have their care suddenly altered mid course, potentially causing adverse health consequences.
Fail to compensate patients who have suffered harm as a result of a
wrongful health plan action. The proposed per day penalties in the Republican Leadership plans fail to compensate patients who suffer serious harm or even death because of a health plans' wrongful action. For example, if a health plan improperly deny a lifesaving cancer treatment to a child, it will only incur a penalty for the number of days it takes to reverse its decision but will not have to pay the family for all the damages it will suffer as the result of having a child with a now untreatable disease. And because the plan will not have to pay for all the harm it causes, it will have insufficient incentives to change health care practices for the future.
Reverse Course on Some Critical Protections. In some areas, the Republican Leadership bills undermine current patient protections that are law today. The American Medical Association says that these bills "would roll back vital patient protections enacted in the states." Similarly, the Kentucky Chapter of the American College of Physicians says that "the Republican bills basically gutted the 'prudent layperson standard'" that assure real emergency room protections. The Republican bills:
Undermine existing medical privacy protections. The House Republican
Leadership bill would preempt some existing medical privacy protections guaranteed by state law, without putting any protections in their place. As a result, the bills would increase the number of individuals who can review and give out health records without a patient's knowledge or consent.
Reverse course on emergency room protections. The Republican
Leadership proposals back away from the emergency room protections that Congress implemented for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The Republican bills include a watered-down provision that does not require health plans to cover patients who go to an emergency room outside their network and does not ensure coverage for any treatment beyond an initial screening. These provisions put patients at risk for the huge costs associated with critical emergency treatment.
Leave Millions of Americans Out in the Cold. The Republican Leadership bills do not apply to all health plans and therefore leave out millions of Americans. As the American Nurses Association says: "we will not agree to leave a large segment of the population unprotected." The bills:
Do not cover all health plans. Both Republican Leadership bills leave
millions of Americans unprotected. The Lott proposal, for example, covers only self-insured plans, thus leaving out 100 million Americans, including millions of Americans in small businesses. These Americans are held hostage to the hope that states will provide them with every patient protections that the Republicans in Congress will not.
ANNOUNCE A NEW "ANTI GAG" REGULATION FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES. While the Republican Leadership delays passing strong patient protections, the Clinton Administration is implementing the patients' bill of rights for the 85 million Americans in Federal health plans. The President will:
Announce release of anti-gag regulation. Today, the President will
announce that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is releasing a new regulation prohibiting plans participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) from using gag clauses. This regulation will ensure that health professionals can discuss all medical treatment options with their patients. Earlier this year, OPM notified all participating health plans that they must provide other new patient protections -- including assuring access to specialists, continuity of care, and access to emergency room services -- to their enrollees. FEHBP has 350 participating health plans that serve 9 million federal employees and their families, including over 100,000 people in Kentucky.
Build on efforts to extend patients' bill of rights to all Federal
health plans. In June, the Department of Health and Human Services extended the patients' bill of rights to the 40 million Americans who receive Medicare. Last month, the Department of Veterans' Affairs began to put in place a new, rapid appeals process for the 3 million veterans who receive health care. Last week, the Department of Defense issued a directive to all military bases throughout the world, extending patient protections to 8 million servicemen and women and their families at nearly 600 hospitals and clinics around the world.