Group Stands Behind Patients’ Rights Ad
Dan Danner, chair of the Health Benefits Coalition, is standing behind an ad campaign that stated that many businesses would drop health coverage for their employees if Congress approves a patients' bill of rights with a provision allowing employees to sue their employers for denial of care, despite an April 12 article from the Washington Post. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the ad, "a letter," signed by several companies, including BellSouth, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Xerox Corp. that warns that employer-sponsored health coverage for 127 million Americans "would be at risk" if employers become the target of "costly litigation." The Post, reported that the companies could provide little evidence to back up this claim, finding only one company willing to say it would drop benefits. Danner said, "Its difficult for any [company] to stand up and say, 'Absolutely, I'd drop coverage,' and send a message to employees in a somewhat tight labor market. What the ad says is they would have to consider whether or not they would (drop coverage). It doesn't say they definitely would drop coverage, but we believe that many, small businesses particularly, would."
Patients' rights advocates have called the ad, part of a larger advertising "blitz" against a patients' bill of rights that includes a right to sue, "misleading and alarmist," the Journal-Constitution reports. Dr. Thomas Reardon, former president of the American Medical Association, said, "That's a scare tactic and a smoke screen that they keep throwing out to try and get out of being accountable. ... If denial of care results in harm to the patient, the patient should have recourse, and the health plan should be accountable." Rep. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa), a co-sponsor of the House version (HR 526) of the patients' rights bill (S 283) sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.), said, "The opposing groups have sent out a lot of disinformation. ... People pay a lot for their health insurance, and they feel strongly that when they get sick, it ought to mean something -- that they shouldn't be willy-nilly denied care and that they ought to have a way to appeal a denial of care and have a fair process. And that's what our bill does." Meanwhile, McCain said that he would "press for a date for debating the measure" after Congress returns from recess (Malone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/19).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.