CBO Says McCain-Kennedy-Edwards Patients’ Rights Bill Would Boost Premiums 4.2%
A new Congressional Budget Office study found that a patients' rights bill (S 283) sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.) would raise health insurance premiums by 4.2%, a number "slightly higher" than the Norwood-Dingell patients' rights bill passed by the House in 1999, CongressDaily reports. A spokesperson for Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who requested the study, called the McCain-Kennedy-Edwards bill a "non-starter," maintaining that the legislation would "raise premiums and push people out of the insurance market." However, a Kennedy spokesman said that the number would not "cause a significant ripple in the health insurance market," adding, "It's still less than the cost of one Big Mac and fries a month for the average worker." The CBO estimates that the "availability of civil remedies alone" would raise the cost of insurance by 0.8%. In a letter to Nickles, the CBO said that the study included an "assumption" that health plans would have to cover "routine" patient costs in clinical trials approved by the FDA, adding that the estimate reflects recent court decisions that "decrease the likelihood that state laws regulating the appeals processes of health plans are preempted by current federal law" (CongressDaily, 4/24).