Kennedy Seeks Quick Action on His Patients’ Rights Proposal
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the incoming chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, intends to move his patients' rights proposal (S. 283) "immediately" after the Senate completes its work on President Bush's education package, the Washington Times reports. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.), is "hotly opposed by businesses and insurers, which fear that its liability provisions would spur a plethora of costly lawsuits and drive up health care costs" (Archibald, Washington Times, 6/5). Under the Kennedy-McCain-Edwards bill, patients could sue managed care plans in state court for denial of benefits or quality of care issues and in federal court for non-quality of care issues, such as those involving violations of their health plan's contract. Damages awarded in federal court would be capped at $5 million, but state courts could award as much money in damages as the state allows. States with existing patients' rights laws could maintain their laws, and states without such laws could draft their own legislation, but these laws would have to be "comparable" to the federal version (American Health Line, 2/7). While proponents of the bill "say they have more than 50 votes," the measure is "not said to have the 60 votes necessary to stop a [Republican-led] filibuster, which is considered likely unless a compromise occurs," the Times reports. Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), the assistant Republican leader, said that GOP lawmakers would examine the Kennedy-McCain-Edwards proposal "very closely" and would "probably amend it" (Washington Times, 6/5). In March, Bush threatened to veto the measure, saying that the $5 million limit was "too high, and [would] drive up the costs of health care in America" (American Health Line, 3/22).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.