Norwood Says Bush ‘Has Had Long Enough’ With Patients’ Rights
Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) "apparently has decided that the Bush administration has had long enough" to develop a patients' rights bill, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Earlier this year, Norwood, a "chief advocate" of patients' rights legislation in past years, delayed co-sponsoring the "latest version of his own bill" to allow the White House and Republican senators time to "fashion their alternative" (Malone, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/20). Under the updated version of Norwood's bill (S 283), sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.), patients could 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. The bill would cap civil assessments awarded in federal court at $5 million, but state courts could award as much in damages as state laws allow (American Health Line, 2/7). Norwood has concluded that "time's running down" and plans to "push forward" on the legislation next week after Congress returns from recess, Norwood spokesperson John Stone said. Although Norwood had hoped "to try to get everybody on the same page" and craft a bipartisan compromise that Bush would support, the effort has "produced no legislation," Stone said, adding, "Something's got to break. Something's got to start moving forward immediately." While Stone did not "specify the next step," the Journal-Constitution reports that Norwood may rejoin his "old bipartisan coalition," which includes McCain, Kennedy, Edwards and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill (HR 526). (Atlanta Journal- Constitution, 4/20).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.