PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Norwood Sheds PARCA For AQCA
If House committees do not move quickly to address the managed care reform bill he introduced yesterday, Rep. Charles Norwood (R-GA) pledged to use a discharge petition to move it directly to the House floor. "This is the only bill I will support this year, unless there is another bill that can obtain more bipartisan support," Norwood said, noting that his bill was the "only bipartisan plan likely to emerge in 1999" (Williams, Augusta Chronicle, 1/8). In what some called "a rare moment of policy" on Capitol Hill yesterday, at a press conference Norwood said that with presidential elections coming soon, "I don't think anyone wants this on the plate for the year 2000. We will have a health care bill." Last year after GOP leaders killed Norwood's bill in committee, the GOP version passed the House with just five votes before heading to defeat in the Senate, but the AP/Las Vegas Sun notes that Democrats picked up "five House seats in the November elections" (1/7). Last year, said Norwood, "We had all the votes we needed, except in the leadership. This year I'm not going to join any task forces" that would "water down" the bill. Though Norwood said "he has not yet talked with [House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)] about managed care reform in the 106th Congress," he added, "He and I got to know each other well during the 300 hours we worked on the task force bill." CongressDaily/ A.M. reports that Norwood's Access to Quality Care Act "would give patients in [HMOs] more power to choose their doctor and hospital, see a specialist, be reimbursed for emergency care, sue a health plan in state court for malpractice and talk freely with their doctors" (Rovner, 1/8).
Health insurance industry groups pounced on Norwood's bill, charging that it would raise costs and increase the number of uninsured Americans. "Mandates, no matter how well intended, raise the cost of health insurance," said Chip Kahn, president of the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA release, 1/7). American Association of Health Plans President Karen Ignagni added, "The Norwood bill was rejected last year, and this year's iteration ... should be considered dead on arrival as well" (AAHP release, 1/7). National Federation of Independent Business President Jack Faris said, "Small business will lose big with the new Norwood health care bill" (NFIB release, 1/7). The American College of Emergency Physicians, however, was quick to come out in support of Norwood's bill. ACEP President Dr. John Moorhead said, "As emergency physicians, we strongly support provisions in the bill to protect patients from 'after the fact' claims denials of emergency care and prior authorization requirements that create barriers to care that can place the health of patients at serious risk" (ACEP release, 1/7).