PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Clinton, AMA Advocate Norwood-Dingell
President Clinton is scheduled to join the American Medical Association and Families USA this afternoon at a White House event to urge the Senate to pass the revised Norwood-Dingell HMO reform bill, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. According to a senior aide, Clinton will ask Republican senators to "break with 'special interests'" and allow the bill to come to the Senate floor "in the spirit of 'bridging differences'" between the president and congressional leaders. AMA Board Chair D. Ted Lewers said, "We're one vote away" from getting Norwood-Dingell through the Senate, "after accounting for the replacement of the late Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) with Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.)." The association announced yesterday that it would launch a television ad campaign to run in several states with competitive Senate races, including Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington. Lewers said the purpose of the ads "is to get [a senator] to change [his or her] mind." Business leaders, however, remain "adamantly opposed" to the bill, and a letter from the Business Roundtable to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "The revised bill would expose virtually any individual or entity connected to a group health plan -- including employers, administrators, health plans and the group health plan itself -- to economic, non-economic and punitive damages under both state and federal law." Lewers disagreed, saying, "Anybody saying the language doesn't protect (employers from lawsuits) hasn't read the legislation." Lott has entrusted Majority Whip and Conference Committee Chair Don Nickles (R-Okla.) with the bill, essentially giving him "veto power." Lewers said Democrats could "go by" Nickles, who nonetheless has expressed his willingness to compromise. "Frankly, we've compromised a lot. It's the Democrats who haven't," he said (Rovner, 9/14).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.