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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 11, 2000



Today, President Clinton will meet with a bipartisan group of members of Congress who serve on the Patients' Bill of Rights Conference Committee. He will underscore his concern about the delay in passing a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights and ask the members for a status report. The President will reiterate his standing offer to provide any technical assistance necessary to advance the passage of this bill. He will point out that delaying the passage of this legislation has serious consequences, endangering the health of thousands of patients every day. The President will note that the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights, which he has repeatedly indicated he would sign into law, passed over seven months ago. Yet, with very few working days left in this Congress, the Conference has not even discussed, much less agreed to, the crucial issues of how many Americans would receive new protections or how these new protections would be enforced. Finally, the President will express his concern that Patients' Bill of Rights not be further delayed or threatened by the inclusion of extraneous provisions that could further destabilize the insurance market and undermine the bill's prospects of passage.

CONFEREES HAVE YET TO MAKE PROGRESS ON ISSUES FUNDAMENTAL TO THE PASSAGE OF A STRONG, ENFORCEABLE BILL. Last October, the House passed the Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights with overwhelming bipartisan support. This is strong legislation that the President would be proud to sign. Even after that landmark achievement, the Conferees have yet to address issues essential to the passage of a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. A strong Patients' Bill of Rights would:

In addition, despite protracted negotiations, agreements have not been reached on provisions that:

DELAYING THE PASSAGE OF A STRONG BILL HAS DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES FOR AMERICAN FAMILIES. Unnecessary delay in passing legislation to curb insurance company abuse results in harm to thousands of patients daily and millions of patients annually. Each day without a strong Patients Bill of Rights results in: 14,000 physicians seeing patients harmed because a plan failed to provide coverage for a prescription drug; 10,000 physicians seeing patients harmed because a plan refused a diagnostic test or procedure; and 7,000 physicians seeing patients harmed because their insurance plan refused a referral to a specialist, according to a new analysis of Kaiser Family Foundation data by the Democratic staff of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

ACTION ON THIS ISSUE IS LONG OVERDUE. This legislation, endorsed by over 200 health care provider and consumer advocacy groups, is the only proposal currently being considered that meets the Administration's fundamental criteria: that patient protections be real and that court enforced remedies be accessible and meaningful. The President's record on this issue is longstanding and includes: