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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 2, 1999

President Clinton Announces New Patient Protections For Children And Urges Congress To Do Its Part To Pass a Strong, Enforceable Patients'

                             Bill of Rights
                            October 2, 1999

In his weekly radio address today, President Clinton will announce that the Department of Health and Human Services is releasing a proposed rule this month that extends key patient protections to the Children's Health Insurance Program. Extending these rights to CHIP ensures that all Federal health insurance programs - collectively covering over 85 million Americans - are coming into compliance, to the fullest extent of the law, with the Patients' Bill of Rights. The President will also praise the enactment of strong patient protections in California this week. But he will underscore that in spite of this progress, Congress must act to ensure that all Americans in all plans have the patient protections they need.

THE ADMINISTRATION IS DOING ITS PART WITH NEW, STRONG PATIENT PROTECTIONS FOR CHILDREN. President Clinton will announce today that the Department of Health and Human Services will release a proposed regulation later this month extending critical patient protections to every child enrolled in CHIP. This new program, in combination with Medicaid, is expected to cover up to 5 million uninsured children. It will be required to ensure that all participating plans include: access to needed health care specialists; access to emergency room services when and where the need arises; assurances that doctors and patients can openly discuss treatment options; and access to a fair, unbiased, and timely appeals process to address health plan grievances.

CALIFORNIA IS SETTING AN EXAMPLE WITH ITS NEW PATIENT PROTECTIONS. The President will praise the state of California for moving ahead as the Congress stalls by enacting a bipartisan, strong, enforceable law that extends new protections to over 20 million people. This new law establishes an independent medical review system for patients to dispute claims when their treatment has been delayed, denied or modified by their health plan; provides enrollees with a fair, unbiased, internal and external appeals process; and allows patients harmed by health plan decisions to hold the plans accountable in the courts.

WE STILL NEED STRONG FEDERAL LEGISLATION. Despite these steps forward on patients' rights, tens of millions of Americans still lack basic protections, and more needs to be done to assure that all Americans in all health plans get the quality care they need and deserve. Because state jurisdiction does not cover self insured plans covering millions of Americans, Federal law may be interpreted to preempt state laws in many areas including enforcement and external appeals, and because few states have passed comprehensive protections, there can be no uniformity of these protections until and unless Federal legislation is enacted.

CONGRESS IS MOVING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. The House Labor Appropriations bill, despite strong opposition by the Administration and Congressional Democrats, includes a provision that would prevent the Department of Labor from issuing regulations giving 120 million employees the right to a timely and effective internal appeal of any coverage decision that denies them care they were promised.

CONGRESS SHOULD PASS A STRONG, ENFORCEABLE PATIENTS BILL OF RIGHTS. Next week, Congress will begin debate on patients' protections. Noting that the Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights already has a bipartisan majority in the House, the President will urge the Republican leadership to commit to a fair, up-or-down vote on this legislation - and not to load it up with provisions that weaken its strong protections and threaten the bipartisan support it has already achieved. Unlike the partisan Senate-passed bill, this bill covers all Americans in all plans, provides real patient protections (access to specialists, continuity of care protections, emergency room protections), and holds plans accountable when they do harm to patients. It is supported by the American Medical Association and over 300 health care and consumer organizations. The President will encourage the Congress to act constructively to protect the right of Americans nationwide.

BUILDING ON STRONG ADMINISTRATION RECORD OF PROTECTING PATIENTS' RIGHTS. President Clinton has a long history of promoting patients' rights, and he 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: Medicare and Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration -- and now, CHIP. The Administration's record on patients' rights includes: