Patients’ Rights Debate Shifts to the House
"Battle lines" over patients' rights legislation have "hardened" in the House, days after the Senate passed a patients' rights bill (S 283) sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.), CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 7/2). House Republican leaders predicted that the House version (HR 526) of Kennedy-McCain-Edwards, sponsored by Reps. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Greg Ganske (R-Iowa), would "fail" and promoted a rival bill (HR 2315) sponsored by Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R-Ky.) (Greenberg, AP/Nando Times, 7/2). The major difference between the Fletcher bill and Norwood-Dingell-Ganske is that under Fletcher, patients could sue health plans in state courts only when the plans refused to abide by decisions made by outside appeals panels, while Norwood-Dingell-Ganske offers a broader right to sue in state and federal courts (American Health Line, 6/21). House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said that Republicans will not move to block a vote on the Norwood-Dingell-Ganske bill but plan instead to "find enough votes" to pass the Fletcher measure. "We're going to bring up a bill that I think is a better bill. ... And I think we will be able to pass our bill," Hastert said (CongressDaily, 7/2). He said that President Bush, who has threatened to veto Kennedy-McCain Edwards, would sign the "much more balanced" Fletcher bill (Greenberg, AP/Nando Times, 7/2). Norwood said that Kennedy-McCain-Edwards "is a bill we can sure work off of. ... This is a bill I could vote for now." Norwood, who co-sponsored a similar bill that the House passed in 1999, predicted that he could "hold ... enough of [the 60 House Republicans who voted for his measure two years ago] to prevail comfortably." House GOP leaders "are doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening," CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 7/2).
reports that "Americans don't know a lot about the intricacies of the various" patients' rights bills, but they "tend to like the idea of having one." Thirty-six percent of Americans surveyed last weekend said that they have followed the news about the issue "even somewhat closely." Two-thirds of those surveyed said that they "don't know what the differences are" between the Republican and Democratic plans, although about 60% said that they "want Congress to pass such a bill." The American public "is somewhat more likely to put their faith in a Democratic approach to a patient's bill of rights than in a Republican approach," Gallup.com reports (Gallup.com, 7/3).