PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Is House GOP Bill Just A Ploy?
New York Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson writes today that Rep. Charlie Norwood's (R-GA) Patient Access to Responsible Care Act "suddenly looks dead" now that House GOP leaders have introduced their own bill. Nelson says the new Republican proposal "deserves suspicion -- It follows the same 'even better' tactic that the Republican leadership has used to block congressional term limits, anti-cigarette legislation and campaign finance reform." Nelson says Republicans have "loaded the patients' bill of rights with unrelated provisions like medical savings accounts" and prohibitions on "lawsuits against insurers who hurt patients by denying coverage." He quotes Families USA Foundation's Judy Waxman: "[Republicans] want to claim they've done something -- and not have to pass a serious bill. They can all cover their behinds and say they favor a patients' bill of rights, but they won't have enough votes to pass anything" (6/26).
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) yesterday "declared that on his side of the Capitol, 'July is going to be HMO month." He said the Senate will debate managed care reform when it returns from the July 4 recess, though CongressDaily notes that Daschle "and Majority Leader Lott have not worked out any sort of time agreement yet" (6/25).
Letter To The Editor
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Reps. Norwood and Greg Ganske (R-IA) defend their support for making health plans liable to enrollees for their treatment decisions: "Health insurers in the individual market are not shielded from their liability for negligent actions. Group health plans should operate under the same rules. Consumers are at risk when federal law (ERISA) protects group health plans from the consequences of life-and-death decisions. An HMO should have no more immunity from the effects of its decision making than a newspaper should have federal immunity for libel and slander" (6/26).
Yet Another Study
A Democratic-backed patients' rights bill would be a boon to bureaucrats and trial lawyers, according to a study conducted by Multinational Business Services for the Health Benefits Coalition and the National Association of Manufacturers. According to NAM, the study concluded that the bill would require hiring 3,828 federal employees at a cost of $155 million per year, create 59 new federal regulations and 56 new justifiable causes for lawsuits. NAM President Jerry Jasinowski said: "The lesson of the failed Clinton health care plan was that more mandates and more bureaucrats are not the answer -- and neither are more lawsuits. It's a lesson that some people just never seem to learn." The MBS analysis looked at a patients' rights proposal introduced in April by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) (NAM release, 6/24).