PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Clinton Demands Legislative Action
President Clinton made patients' rights the subject of his weekly radio address this weekend, using the occasion to lash out at "the Republican congressional leadership" for inaction on the issue and for passing a hollow bill (Harris, Washington Post, 8/2). Clinton said, "Whether in managed care or traditional care, every family deserves quality care. ... [S]ometimes cost-cutting can lead to lower standards. ... [w]hen those kinds of things happen, we know we have to take action." He said the "plan of the Republican leadership is an empty promise; it simply will not protect the American public or ensure the quality health care they deserve." The president urged Congress to "reject proposals that are more loophole than law" (transcript, 8/1).
Delivering the Republicans' weekly radio address, Sen. Susan Collins (ME) characterized her party's patients' rights bill as one that will solve the fundamental managed care problems without involving the government too heavily or making the process too convoluted. "The Republican [Senate] bill will promote quality care without creating costly and burdensome federal controls and mandates that could cause some people to lose their health insurance altogether," she said. Snowe particularly defended the lack of a provision in the GOP plan allowing patients to sue their insurers. She said, "Our plan differs from the Democrats' bill in a fundamental respect: It places treatment decisions in the hands of doctors, not lawyers. If your HMO denies you treatment that your doctor believes is medically necessary, you should not have to resort to a costly and lengthy court battle to get the care you need" (Reuters/Washington Times, 8/2).
Senate Packs Up For August
"While the rhetoric over the health bills intensified, the legislative process has bogged down," the Washington Post notes (8/2). Friday's CongressDaily reported that as "the Senate left town for its August recess," Vice President Gore, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Senate Labor and Human Services ranking member Edward Kennedy (D-MA) gathered to push for the Democratic "Patients' Bill of Rights" proposal and to "keep the pressure on Senate Republicans." When the Senate returns from recess, Daschle said the Democrats will likely suspend floor action on all appropriations bills until a debate scenario for managed care can be agreed upon. "One way or another, the easy way or the hard way, we will have a real debate on patient protections," Daschle said (Norton, 7/31).
The Post Profiles Ganske
Today's Washington Post profiles Rep. Greg Ganske (R-IA), a physician who is becoming a key player in the managed care reform debate. The Post calls him a "political refugee, speaking on the Democrats' time during the floor debate while remaining seated on the GOP side of the aisle." Ganske says, "In the end, if we're going to have a law on this, and I think we're going to have a law on this, we're going to have to cooperate." Click here to read the entire story (Eilperin, 8/3).