Lawmaker Takes Another Stab at Patients’ Bill of Rights
Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) reintroduced the original version of legislation (HR 979) to create a "patients' bill of rights" before he returned to Georgia last week to receive hospice care, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The legislation -- originally written in 1998 by Norwood, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Greg Ganske (R-Iowa) -- would allow patients to file lawsuits against health maintenance organizations for improper medical decisions.
According to a statement from his office, Norwood, who has declined to continue treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, "acknowledged he will not be able to further impact debate on the legislation but was confident Chairman Dingell and other supporters would see the bill passed into law this session."
The bill in 1999 passed the House but was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate. In 2001, a different version of the legislation was approved by the Senate, but the bill lost Democratic support because of a compromise Norwood accepted to avoid a presidential veto.
The legislation has been introduced in a slightly different form every year since 2001.
In a December 2006 opinion piece that appeared in a number of Georgia weekly newspapers, Norwood wrote, "There is no reason we can't pass the original, uncompromised bill with a veto-proof majority. ... If the Democrats can use their new majority to pull that off, they will and should score big with the public."
John Stone, spokesperson for Norwood, said that an analysis of returning members of Congress indicates that the legislation will have an easier chance of passage. "It appears we have enough to see one of those 300 votes in the House, 60 votes in the Senate kind of deals," Stone said (Baxter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/13).