PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Clinton Ups Pressure on Senate GOP
During an appearance in Missouri yesterday, President Clinton "chided" Senate Republicans for defeating a "real" patients' bill of rights and stepped up pressure on Congress to approve the House-version which passed last October, the Washington Post reports. Clinton said, "We are so close. We are one vote away" from passing a more comprehensive bill. By a party-line 51-47 vote, the Senate last week approved a bill that would cover fewer people and place more restrictions on patients' right to sue their HMOs than the more expansive House version. But Clinton asserted yesterday that the Senate plan would be "worse" than no bill at all because it would leave more than 135 million HMO customers without strong protections. He added that the Senate bill was "passed only to provide GOP senators political cover" (Nakashima, 7/7). Citing an analysis conducted by Rutgers and George Washington universities, Clinton said, "The Senate bill would effectively wipe out protections that states ... have already passed and replace them with provisions that would make it more difficult to hold plans accountable for harmful decisions." He added, "We need a real patients' bill of rights, with real accountability and real rights -- not one that just provides cover for the special interests" (Hunt, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/7).
In choosing Missouri for the site of his speech, Clinton's "unmentioned, but obvious" target was Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), who voted against the Clinton-supported measure and is running for re-election in a hotly contested race. Administration officials hope that with "sufficient pressure," Ashcroft will push GOP leaders to reach a compromise acceptable to the White House, the Los Angeles Times reports. Flanked by Ashcroft's opponent Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D), Clinton told the audience, "I want you to think about the one vote standing between all America and the kind of health care system we need" (Gerstenzang, 7/7). Ashcroft has also been under pressure from the American Medical Association to throw his support behind the House version of the bill (Washington Post, 7/7). In a statement yesterday, Ashcroft said he "had always supported 'a real patients' bill of rights'" (Lewis, New York Times, 7/7). Clinton will make an appearance Monday in Philadelphia with Rep. Ron Klink (D), who is challenging Sen. Rick Santorum (R) for Santorum's Senate seat. The White House is considering other visits to Minnesota, Michigan, Delaware and Oregon to push patients' rights to the forefront of those congressional races (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/7).