Bush to Support State Patients’ Rights Laws
With two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and congressional lawmakers prepared to address the issue, President-elect George W. Bush has expressed, through his aides, support for state laws "expanding the rights of patients in disputes" with their HMOs, the New York Times reports. The Supreme Court has asked the Justice Department for its views on the laws of Texas and Illinois, which allow patients to have treatment denials reviewed by an independent board of physicians. A federal court struck down the Texas law, while another federal court upheld the Illinois statute. The Times reports that this "litigation, rather than efforts to pass a patients' bill of rights, could be the first test of the administration's policies" on the issue. The Bush transition team has said that Bush would support such laws as "a way to protect patients." As governor of Texas, Bush in 1997 "allowed" a patients' bill of rights to become law without his signature, the Times reports. During the third presidential debate, Bush said if he were elected, the "people will be able to take their HMO insurance company to court." As the courts address the issue, insurance industry lobbyists are working to "define the new right," questioning if lawsuits should be filed or for what type of decisions an HMO should be held liable. The Times reports that Texas' process, which "guarantees" patients a review of decisions on medical necessity, has "worked well ... by most accounts." In addition, consumer advocates and state insurance commissioners said the process was a "fast, impartial way" to resolve disputes and increase the accountability of managed care plans. Texas and Illinois say that "traditional power" over insurance has rested at the state level, a position aides say President-elect Bush "intends to support" (Pear, New York Times, 1/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.