PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: AFL-CIO Calls For Reform
As part of its effort to help enact Democratic patients' rights legislation, the AFL-CIO held a "National Day of Action for HMO Reform" yesterday, in which workers across the country held rallies in front of HMO offices and U.S. Senate district offices. The union also began running radio and television advertisements in 14 states, calling on senators to vote "no" on the Senate Republicans' health care bill. The AFL-CIO says the Senate GOP plan will leave more than 100 million consumers unprotected and will not allow patients to sue their health plans for denied coverage. John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president, said, "The Senate Republican proposal is an empty bill that does not solve the HMO abuses working families experience. It is a cynical attempt to mislead voters while protecting the status quo on behalf of the insurance industry." The union notes that it is part of a coalition formed to support "real HMO reform" that includes the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Children's Defense Fund. The AFL-CIO supports the Patients' Bill of Rights Act sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) (release, 9/10). During the South Carolina AFL-CIO's 42nd Constitutional Convention, national secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka yesterday "said health insurance reform legislation is one of the biggest issues organized labor will push as Congress returns from its summer recess." He said workers "are still laboring longer and harder for less (compensation and benefits) then we deserve" (Davenport, Columbia State, 9/10). Georgia AFL-CIO director Stewart Acuff said of the ads, "This is a big issue for us all over the country. We're doing this in places where Senators aren't up for election. This is not an election campaign, this is an issue campaign."
'Going Negative' In GA
Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michael Coles has aired "the first negative TV ad" in his race against incumbent Republican Paul Coverdell. The ad charges that Coverdell "already has 'a special right' to sue his federal health plan, while average Americans don't." But Coverdell said he knew of no such right which he possesses and said the right to sue in general would cause increased premiums and loss of coverage for many Americans. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the "Coles ad, which first aired Wednesday night, came only two days after Coles opened his television ad campaign with a commercial that showed people who had suffered as a result of insurers denying coverage" (Mantius, 9/11).
HBC Announces Ad Blitz
The Health Benefits Coalition announced yesterday a new flight of TV ads that will run in Washington, DC, to thwart a last-ditch effort by Democrats to pass their patients' rights bill. In addition, representatives of the coalition, including 500 members of the National Restaurant Association and CEOs of The Business Roundtable, will come to town next week to urge Congress to reject the Kennedy plan. Dan Danner, chair of the coalition, said, "There is always a danger that bad legislation will be passed in haste at the end of a session of Congress. We intend to make sure Congress does not make the mistake of passing a bad health care 'reform' bill which will increase the costs for families, drive up the number of uninsured and do more harm than good to our health care system" (HBC release, 9/10). The coalition's 30-second TV spot is entitled "Flatline." It shows a heart-monitor rhythm racing out of control and then going flat. An announcer explains that the Kennedy bill would damage the health care system by placing health plans and employers at risk of lawsuits relating to coverage decisions. The ad invites viewers to call a toll-free number -- 1-800-811-8057 -- to tell members of Congress, "No to the Kennedy bill ... no to increased health care costs" (Business Roundtable release, 9/10).
Is Our Health Bill's Health?
A press release by the Coalition for Patient Choice suggests that President Clinton is pushing patients' rights legislation in order to divert attention from his personal political and legal problems. Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business Survival Committee and chair of the Coalition for Patient Choice, said, "Bill Clinton is once again resorting to health care demagoguery to try to lift his own political fortunes at the expense of hard-working Americans" (release, 9/10).