Bush Would Veto Kennedy-McCain-Edwards Patients’ Rights Bill
President Bush said yesterday that while he hopes to sign a patients' bill of rights by the end of year, he would veto any proposal in Congress with right-to-sue provisions that would be too expansive and would "drive up" health care costs, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Speaking before the annual convention of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando, Bush said, "I want to sign a patients' bill of rights this year, but I will not sign a bad one, and I cannot sign any one that is now before Congress" (Hutcheson, Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/22). This "direct veto threat" was intended for legislation (S 283) proposed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.) that would allow patients to sue their health plans in state court and seek up to $5 million in non-economic damages in federal court (Chen/Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 3/22). In his speech, Bush said that a patients' rights bill must have "reasonable caps on damage awards," and that the $5 million figure was "too high, and [would] drive up the costs of health care in America." The President outlined five principles that he thinks should govern any patients' rights legislation:
- The measure "must cover everyone, all patients in all private health plans."
- It should "guarantee all patients important rights," including the right to "get emergency treatment at the nearest emergency room" and the right to see a specialist.
- In cases of denied medical care, patients "should have the right to a fair and immediate review" through a "strong, binding independent review process" that includes an "impartial review panel of medical doctors."
- The measure "should offer patients who have been harmed a meaningful remedy, without inviting frivolous lawsuits." This includes a "recourse in court" after the independent review process, which would prevent "most disagreements" between a patient and a health plan from "wind[ing] up in court."
- Finally, a patients' bill of rights should "ensure" that Americans will have access to affordable health care coverage" --therefore, it should not encourage "excess and frivolous litigation" that could "drive up insurance premiums for everyone" (Bush speech text, 3/22).
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