House-Passed Patients’ Rights Bill Would ‘Weaken’ California Law, Bee Says
Legislation (HR 2563) passed by the House last week would "weaken" California's patients' rights law, a Sacramento Bee editorial says. The editorial says that the federal legislation would leave California residents "worse off by pre-empting the state's new system of medical review," which allows a patient to "quickly reverse" a health plan's decision "before he dies or gets sicker." Under California law, the state Department of Managed Health Care manages an independent external review process to resolve disputes between patients and health plans, but according to the editorial, the House bill would "put federal rules in force that would make it more difficult and expensive for California patients to contest, and overturn, faulty health plan decisions." The editorial says that although the House bill represented a victory for President Bush, "where there are winners, there are losers too, and in this case they are Californians" (Sacramento Bee, 8/8).
According to a San Francisco Examiner editorial, the House patients' rights bill would "weaken existing protections" for patients in California and allow HMOs to "bypass penalties imposed by state courts and abide by low federal monetary damage limits." Although a "nationwide standard" should apply in states without patients' rights laws, the editorial maintains that a federal patients' rights law should not set a standard "at the expense of existing state laws," adding that the House bill would lead to the "castration of state courts in rectifying HMO wrongs." Noting that the Senate will "never approve" the House bill, the editorial says last week's move allows President Bush and Republican lawmakers to "exude political goodwill without agreeing to legislation that actually could become law." The editorial concludes, "When it suited his pre-November needs, the president made much of his status as a Capitol Hill outsider. ... But in the biggest test yet between federal and states powers, the president lines up against states" (San Francisco Examiner, 8/7).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.