PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Clinton Launches Last Lobbying Effort
In a final push to pass a patients' bill of rights this year, President Clinton announced yesterday that the legislation is at the top of his agenda during the remaining days of the 106th Congress, and he ignited a strong lobbying effort to secure the final few votes needed to save the bill, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Striving to bring new enthusiasm to the bill," Clinton called for an end to debate and urged congressional passage of the legislation that would guarantee hospital access and plan coverage during emergencies; guarantee access to medical specialists; provide continuity of physician care for patients with serious chronic ailments whose doctors leave their health plans; and permit patients to sue their health plans. Despite its support from the medical community and consumer groups, the bill faces opposition from insurance companies and businesses that fear the implication of lawsuits. Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, said that the "bill's reliance on predatory lawsuits and trial lawyers continues to threaten the prospects for real patient protection," as the legislation "would be likely to lead to higher premiums and more uninsured Americans, without improving the quality of health care." Opposition also comes from Senate Republicans, who last year passed a more limited patients' rights bill than the one supported by the White House and the House (Rosenblatt/Rubin, 9/15). Whereas the House passed a health care bill that would cover 160 million Americans, the Senate voted in favor of legislation covering only 48 million. While Senate supporters of the House measure are only one vote shy of a majority, they need 11 more votes to supersede a filibuster threatened by Senate Republican leaders opposed to the bill. Along with Clinton's efforts to win these votes, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and others are working to win over the Senate with compromise legislation. To illustrate a sense of urgency, a digital counter atop an ambulance, called the "Patients' Rights Ticker," displays the number of patients between ages 18 and 64 who have experienced delays or service denials since October when the bill won House approval. Yesterday, the number almost reached 17 million (Martinez, Detroit News, 9/15).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.