PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Norwood Unveils New PARCA Version
In response to criticism by insurers, Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) yesterday unveiled a series of changes and amendments to his Patient Access to Responsible Care Act, the Morris News Service/Augusta Chronicle reports. At a news conference, Norwood "outlined 14 major amendments" to the act. The biggest change deals with the controversial liability provisions in the bill, which would allow patients to sue their health plans over treatment denials. The revisions stipulate that a patient cannot sue his or her employer -- only the specific HMO with which the employer contracts -- unless the employer made the coverage decision. Further, punitive damage claims would be prohibited "in cases where appeals have gone through an external review" (Williams, 5/7). All lawsuits would be proscribed if any harm was merely financial rather than medical. Other changes would "eliminate a section critics said would require guaranteed issue of policies and community rating; stipulate that nothing in the bill would mandate or expand coverage of abortion or euthanasia ... exempt fee-for-service plans from PARCA's managed care standards; and clarify that plans are free not to include in their networks more providers than they need" (Rovner, CongressDaily, 5/6). Norwood said, "I have fully responded to the criticisms of the managed care lobby. Now, it's their turn to respond" (Morris/Chronicle, 5/7).
Return Of Serve
In a statement yesterday, Chip Kahn, COO of the Health Insurance Association of America, said, "Unfortunately, 'New PARCA' contains all the luster of 'New Coke.'" He assailed it as a boon to "trial lawyers, bureaucrats, and health care providers at the expense of consumers." While HIAA "appreciates" Norwood's recognition of its previous analysis, Kahn said, "'New PARCA' merely papers over the costly, anti-consumer provisions of the original legislation. It amounts to nothing more than the same script in a new wrapper" (HIAA release, 5/6). Similarly, the Health Benefits Coalition referred to PARCA 2 as "little more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic." The group calls on Norwood "to scrap his big government model and join with us in seeking market-based solutions that will improve the quality of health care while making it more affordable for millions of working families and small businesses" (HBC release, 5/6).
Inspired by the stories of HMO victims, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) vowed to bring patients' rights legislation to the floor for debate this year. "The American people are demanding HMO reform this year. If this Congress fails to enact the Patients' Bill of Rights, it should be sued for malpractice," she said. Congressional Democrats also launched a Website dedicated to managed care reform and patients' rights. Find it at www.senate.gov/~dpc/patients_rights (Boxer release, 5/6).
Hot Button Issue
The AP/Boston Globe reports that Democrats are hoping to use "managed health care as a major issue in fall elections," which is leading them to increase pressure on the GOP congressional majority for a vote. Dane Strother, a Democratic campaign strategist, said, "It's the most emotional issue in the country this year." Democrats in Congress are recounting HMO "horror stories" on the floor of both chambers daily. Further, the issue is taking center stage in many governor's races around the nation. Strother cites the appeal of slogans like, "[I]f you can pick the person to fix your car, you should be able to pick who'll deliver your baby" (5/7).