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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 20, 2000


Today, I am pleased to announce that the Labor Department is issuing final regulations requiring private health plans covering 130 million Americans to provide a fast and fair internal appeals process for patients when coverage has been denied or delayed. Under this new rule, for the first time, health plans would be required to make coverage decisions quickly -- within 72 hours for urgent requests -- and to provide consumers with meaningful information on their rights and benefits. Currently, many health plans do not have the medical expertise to make such decisions, and approval of necessary services can take as long as 300 days.

Under the strong leadership of Secretary Herman, we are taking an important step towards providing Americans the health care protections they need. It is the final executive action I can take to provide critical protections to patients in private health plans. It builds on my Administration's previous action to provide critical patient protections to the 85 million Americans in Federal health plans. But the only way to give every American in every health plan the right to see a specialist, to go to the nearest emergency room -- not the cheapest -- and to hold health care plans accountable when they cause harm, is to pass a real, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. Whether it is this year or next year, Congress should come together to pass this long overdue legislation.