Daschle May Appoint Conferees This Week To Negotiate Agreement on Patients’ Rights Legislation
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said yesterday that he may appoint conferees as early as this week to negotiate an agreement with the House on patients' rights legislation, CongressDaily/AM reports. Although the Senate and House passed patients' rights bills last year, Daschle has delayed the appointment of conferees to allow sponsors of the Senate version of the bill -- Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Edwards (D-N.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- to negotiate an agreement with the White House, which supports the House bill (CongressDaily/AM, 5/22). White House officials and aides to Kennedy have met several times to discuss a compromise over the rival bills (California Healthline, 1/23). The Senate bill would allow patients to sue HMOs in state courts -- which often award larger damages than federal courts -- for denial of benefits or quality of care issues and in federal court for non-quality of care issues. It would cap damages awarded in federal court at $5 million but would allow state courts to award as much in damages as states allow. The House bill would allow patients to sue health plans in state court only for non-economic damages up to $1.5 million. In addition, the legislation would allow courts to award patients up to $1.5 million in punitive damages, but only in cases where patients won complaints against health plans before an outside appeals panel and an HMO still refused to provide care (California Healthline, 1/10). Daschle said that the negotiations between Kennedy and the White House have "bogged down" over the question of caps on damage awards, adding that "the best way [to reach an agreement] is with the conference" (CongressDaily/AM, 5/22).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.