Federal Patients’ Rights Law Would Work, Davis Writes in Washington Post Letter
The federal government should not let the idea for a national patients' rights bill "fad[e]," California Gov. Gray Davis (D) writes in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post (Davis, Washington Post, 9/20). Davis' letter is in response to a Sept. 12 Washington Post story that said the push for federal patients' rights legislation has shifted in part because of the "difficulty of compromises in Washington's intensely partisan environment" and the "limited attention span of policymakers and advocacy groups as fresh issues emerge." The attention on patients' rights also has weakened because of recent Supreme Court rulings that clarified when patients can sue health plans in state courts over certain coverage decisions; that let states create independent review systems to handle complaints against managed care plans; and that allow states to require managed care plans to work with any doctor who is willing to participate (California Healthline, 9/12). According to Davis, California's patients' rights law, which he signed in 1999, "prove[s] that patients' rights can work." California's law -- which allows an independent physician review of HMO denials, the right to sue an HMO without caps on damages and a state agency dedicated to enforcing patients' new rights -- is "the most aggressive patients' rights law in the nation, stronger than the bills over which Congress and the White House have been agonizing," Davis says. He writes, "No HMO or health care expert has attributed increased costs to our patients' rights [law], and, despite the right to sue, early intervention in patient problems has prevented what many predicted would be a flood of litigation." Davis says that not passing a federal patients' rights law is "a lost opportunity to prove the federal government can implement protections for patients without strangling the free market health care system" (Washington Post, 9/20).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.