PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Norwood Bill Would Raise Premiums 4.1%
A bipartisan cohort of moderate senators yesterday officially endorsed the House-passed Norwood-Dingell bill, calling it the "most promising legislative vehicle to strengthen managed care" (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M.>, 2/11). But according to figures released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office, the measure, approved last October and now in conference, would raise premiums by 4.1%. That estimate is much higher than cost expectations for the "far less expansive" Senate version, the Chafee-Graham bill, which would spark a premium increase of 1%, according to a report by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (Rovner, CongressDaily, 2/10). Nevertheless, in a letter to the Senate's managed care conferees, Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-Ark.), Charles Robb (D-Va.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wrote, "This legislation would restore consumer confidence in our managed care system, while holding down costs. Any weakening of the provisions approved by the House will undermine those goals." However, the senators added that if conferees still oppose the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell bill, they should "consider the ... 'Chafee-Graham' proposal as a compromise." That measure "blends key features of both House and Senate proposals and is bipartisan in nature," they argued (CongressDaily/A.M., 2/11).
The Pre-Game Show
Meanwhile, Reps. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) and Greg Ganske (R- Iowa) and Sen. Chafee have called for a "pre-conference 'summit'" between President Clinton and Congressional leaders to set "acceptable parameters" for the patients' rights legislation. The first meeting of the House-Senate conference, scheduled for yesterday, was delayed due to the hospitalization of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Recesses will keep the conference from commencing until month's end, providing "'a golden opportunity' for a high-level meeting that would prevent conferees from 'heading down a dark alley to a dead end,'" Norwood argued (CongressDaily, 2/10).