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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 9, 1999



July 9, 1999

As the Senate prepares for its long overdue debate over patient protections next week, President Clinton today challenged Congress to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights this summer. While commending Senator Lott for agreeing to schedule a vote on this issue, the President criticized the Republican leadership bill as wholly inadequate because of the limited number of Americans covered by the bill, insufficient protections, and weak enforcement provisions that fail to hold health plans accountable. At a forum at Harbor UCLA Medical Center, the President raised specific concerns about the current version of this bill, including the fact that it leaves unprotected over 110 million Americans - including 14.5 million Californians. He also heard the Executive Vice President and the CEO of the California Medical Association, Dr. Jack Lewin, and Ethel Edmond, a registered nurse practicing in Los Angeles County, describe the practical implications of the shortcomings of the Republican leadership bill. Today, the President:

Commended the Senate for the Decision to Hold Next Week's Debate on the Patients' Bill of Rights. The President praised the Republican leadership for recognizing the need to debate about the best way to address the serious concerns about health care quality. He reiterated his strong appreciation for the Congressional Democrats' dedication to this important legislation and for their efforts to build a consensus with Republicans to assure passage. The President emphasized that this is not a partisan issue and stated his belief that this is best illustrated by the fact that thousands of doctors and nurses, over 200 medical and consumer groups, and many health care and public sector unions have all endorsed the plan he supports for patient protections.

Reiterated that Any Patient Protections Legislation Must Assure Patients the Protections They Need. More than a year and a half ago the President accepted the recommendations of a the non-partisan broad-based Quality Commission to assure that every health plan provides strong patient protection, he urged Congress to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights. Today, the President urged Congress to pass a bill in this legislative session that includes critical protections such as:

Criticized Watered Down, Piecemeal Approach Offered by the Republican Leadership. The President underscored that the Republican Leadership bill fails to include many basic protections for Americans, including: no access to necessary specialists; no effective mechanism to assure patients access to emergency room care when and where the need arises; failure to guarantee continuity of care protections, leaving patients at risk of having to abruptly change doctors in the middle of treatment; a weak, watered-down appeals process that is biased against patients and does not provide for a standard of medical necessity; and lack of a strong enforcement mechanism for patients to hold health plans accountable when they make harmful decisions. Finally, because it only covers self-insured plans, the Senate Republican leadership proposal would leave over 110 million people without basic protections - 14.5 million people in California alone.

Stressed the Urgency of Strengthening and Modernizing Medicare for the 21st Century. The President emphasized that Medicare needs to be strengthened to: (1) be more competitive and efficient; (2) include a long-overdue prescription drug benefit and improvements in preventive benefits; and (3) make an unprecedented long-term financing commitment to the program that would extend the estimated life of the Medicare Trust Fund until at least 2027. The President encouraged Congress to work with him on a bipartisan basis pass this important legislation this year.

The Clinton Administration's Strong Record on Patients' Rights. The Clinton Administration has a long history of promoting patients' rights. The President has already used his authority to make many of these rights real for the 85 million Americans who get their health care through federal plans - including Medicare and Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, the Department of Defense, and the Veterans Administration. The Administration's record on patients' rights include: