Nickles Says Bipartisan Patients’ Bill of Rights Won’t Pass
Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) said yesterday that the bipartisan managed care reform bill proposed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) "will never be allowed to pass the Senate," CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 3/1). Among other provisions, the McCain-Kennedy-Edwards bill would allow patients to sue HMOs 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 health plan contracts. 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 (California Healthline, 2/7). During a health care "summit" sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Nickles said the bill "falls very, very short" in trying to address patient concerns over managed care without increasing costs. He added that the bill would permit "court shopping, unlimited non-economic damages, and the only, quote, reform is a $5 million cap on punitive damages." However, Nickles said he "does want to pass a bill this year" and is "comfortable" with President Bush's patients' rights proposal, CongressDaily reports.
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), who also spoke at the summit, conceded that the McCain-Edwards-Kennedy bill "will have difficulty getting large amounts of Republican support and may have difficulty getting signed." As part of a group of bipartisan moderates, Breaux is helping craft amendments to the bill, including one that would require patients to exhaust appeals processes before taking care disputes to court (Rovner, CongressDaily, 3/1).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.