Frist Patients’ Rights Bill Would Raise Premiums 2.9%
The patients' rights proposal (S. 889) sponsored by Sens. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and John Breaux (D-La.) and endorsed by President Bush would raise the "median annual insurance premium" by 2.9%, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports. In April, the CBO projected that a competing patients rights measure (S. 283) sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.) would raise premiums by 4.2% (McQueen, AP/Wichita Eagle, 6/8). This bill would allow patients to sue HMOs in state court for denial of benefits or quality of care issues and in federal court for non-quality of care issues, with damages awarded in federal court capped at $5 million, while state courts could award as much money in damages as the state allows. The Frist-Breaux-Jeffords bill would allow patients to sue their health plans only after exhausting an appeals process by an outside review panel and only in federal court, with awards capped at $500,000. Reacting to the new CBO report, Frist said that it "illustrates what we've said all along, that our bill represents a true compromise" about patients' rights
(Rovner/Fulton, CongressDaily, 6/7).