PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: GOP Renegade Pushes For Action
Rep. Greg Ganske (R-IA) "remains committed to getting a floor vote on his Patients' Bill of Rights legislation before the August recess," CongressDaily reports. Ganske said he will not back off on using a discharge petition to bring the legislation to the floor without the GOP leadership's consent. Ganske and Democratic Rep. John Dingell (MI) co-introduced a rule for bringing up patients' rights legislation, "but the procedural hurdles a discharge petition would face means they could not gather signatures until July 21." Republican leaders oppose Ganske's efforts, and leadership aides "are confident a discharge petition would fail." If signed by a majority of House members, a discharge petition allows legislation to be brought to the floor without the consent of the leadership (Caruso, 6/30).
In a letter to the New York Times, Dr. Randolph Smoak, the American Medical Association board chair, outlines why his organization is backing congressional Democrats' HMO reform bill: "We support the Dingell-Daschle bill because it addresses five objectives: information disclosure for patients, an independent appeals process, a method for holding health plans accountable for medical decision-making, a prudent-layperson definition for access to emergency services and termination of physician gag policies." Smoak notes that the AMA has long backed the medical malpractice caps included in the House GOP counter proposal, but he adds: "We do not support their inclusion in any patient protection legislation. We will fight that battle on another day" (7/1).
Today's Baltimore Sun: "It matters little whether Democrats or Republicans claim credit for the final product. What counts is giving patients an assurance of basic health care rights. Millions of Americans find themselves at the mercy of HMOs because no national standards exist for managed care companies. ... Congress can remedy this situation by giving millions of patients peace of mind without imposing unfair burdens on the industry" (7/1).
Today's Kansas City Star says the House GOP patients' rights bill has "some reasonable goals," particularly its call for eliminating "gag clauses" in HMO physician contracts. "Ideally," the editorial concludes, "the marketplace would take care of stupid or dishonest industry practices. But for a variety of reasons, notably the legal protections and regulatory exemptions now enjoyed by many health plans, the marketplace is not operating properly. Industry resistance to all efforts to halt abusive practices will only damage the industry's reputation even further" (7/1).
An editorial in today's Washington Times touts medical savings accounts in the context of the patients' rights issue. The editorial notes that while the House GOP bill "includes government mandates and is the less attractive for them," the measure "does include a provision ... that would widen the eligibility for MSAs, which indicates a grudging understanding of the real problems facing American health care these days." The Times concludes: "Whatever the method of reform, the goal must be to put patients back in charge of their care and its costs. Any patients' rights bill that doesn't do that will have greater effect on their bills than on their rights" (7/1).