Norwood’s Patients’ Rights ‘Demand’ Draws Ire on Hill
A press release issued last week by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) "demand[ing] the nation's leaders stand by their word" on a patient's bill of rights elicited "odd outbursts and shouting" from a bipartisan group of lawmakers whom Norwood "infuriated" this summer when he broke rank with them and "cut a private deal" with President Bush, the Washington Post's "In the Loop" column reports. Both parties and the president said they were "committed to passing a real patients' rights bill before we go home," Norwood's statement read, adding, "I feel it's prudent to remind them of their promise, and point out every possible avenue for them to honor their word." This summer, Norwood was part of the group of lawmakers, including Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Greg Ganske (R-Iowa), who pushed for a patients' rights bill with a more expansive right to sue managed care companies than that favored by most Republicans and some Democrats. Supporters of that bill said that Norwood's compromise with Bush narrowed that right. The Post reports that as Norwood went off to meet with President Bush, he told his colleagues, "I promise, I give you my word, I will never make a deal without coming back to you." After reading the press release, Dingell said, "If Charlie had kept his word in the first place, we would already have a patients' bill of rights" (Kamen, Washington Post, 12/14). A compromise between the House bill (HR 2563), which includes Norwood's compromise, and the Senate bill (S 1052), which contains the broader right to sue, has not been resolved. Norwood spokesperson John Stone said, "When we put that (release) out, we thought we'd ruffle some feathers," adding that the priority now is to "get a bill passed" (Washington Post, 12/14). To view the Norwood release, go to http://www.house.gov/norwood/press121201pob.htm.