HOSPITAL STAYS: New Bill Backs Physician-Patient Choice
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) introduced legislation yesterday designed to require health insurance plans to cover hospital stays for any illness if it is deemed medically appropriate by the attending physician in consultation with the patient. A press release issued by Sen. Feinstein's office indicates that the proposed Hospital Length of Stay Act of 1998 would "prohibit plans from providing monetary or other incentives to induce a physician to provide care inconsistent with" the measure's requirements. Other provisions include: banning plans from requiring doctors to obtain prior authorization for a hospital stay; prohibiting plans from denying eligibility or renewal for the purpose of avoiding the bill's mandates and stopping plans from penalizing or otherwise reducing or limiting reimbursement of the attending physician because the physician provided care in accordance with the requirements of the bill. In introducing the measure, Feinstein said, "Lengths of stay should not be determined by insurance company clerks, actuaries or non-medical personnel. It is the attending physician ... who should decide when to admit and to discharge someone from a hospital."
Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced a companion measure in the House. The legislation is backed by the American Medical Association, American Academy of Neurology, American Psychological Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (release, 7/15).