PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Republicans Inch Closer to Unity
Republicans appear to be closer to an agreement on patients' rights, as key leaders meet to discuss differences on issues and procedures, Congress Daily/A.M. reports. After a meeting Tuesday night between House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Hastert indicated he would "work until we get it (a bill) done," adding that Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), the lead sponsor of the House bill, which the Senate has resisted, should be involved. Earlier in the day, Norwood told reporters that he plans to meet with Nickles today to identify potential areas of compromise in the most recent Senate proposal. The largest issue dividing congressional Republicans is whether the federal government can override state governors who claim that their states have adequate patient protections. Senate Republicans oppose federal oversight of state certifications. "I can't live with the ability of governors to (reject patient protections because they) cost too much money. It's not that I don't trust governors, but there needs to be some checks," Norwood said. He also rejected Senate Republicans' suggestion of making patients wait until an external appeals process is finished before allowing them to file negligence lawsuits against their health plans. For their part, Democrats walked out of the conference last week, refusing to take part in closed meetings. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) forced a vote on the House bill in the Senate last week, prompting conference member Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) to comment, "Kennedy has revealed what he wants. His goal is to blow up the conference and I predict that he will fail." Shadegg expressed optimism about the bill, noting, "With the Democrats, I hope, but without if necessary, there will be a patients' bill of rights. We will write a very good bill; we will pass it; and I predict the president will sign it" (Fulton/Rovner, 6/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.