PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Senate Debate “Shelved”
Senate debate yesterday over patient protection measures "quickly dissolved into an argument between supporters" of the Democrats' "Patient Bill of Rights" and Sen. Alfonse D'Amato's (R-NY) bill to expand health plan coverage to include reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients. CongressDaily reports the debate centered around Senate Democratic leaders' insistence on tacking D'Amato's legislation to their own measure. The D'Amato bill, which Senate GOP leaders allowed to come up for "two hours of debate with no amendments," would give doctors and patients more control over the length of hospital stays following mastectomies and mandate coverage for reconstructive breast surgery. "In the end," CongressDaily reports, the D'Amato bill "was shelved" as Democrats and D'Amato "vow[ed] to seek to append their measures to other bills" (Rovner, 5/12).
Fighting For Right
D'Amato complained that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) are "holding hostage American women and their basic rights" by attempting to tack his legislation onto their own patient protection bill (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 5/13). Kennedy, however, explained that if D'Amato's bill on its own passes the Senate, it would ultimately "die in the House," allowing Senate GOP leaders "to claim they had addressed the managed care issue" without really enacting a bill (CongressDaily, 5/12). Daschle said "Democrats will be right behind" D'Amato as he pursues his bill independently (CongressDaily/A.M., 5/13). Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), D'Amato's lead cosponsor, expressed her support for the Democrats' measure, but said "it should not block the breast cancer bill" (CongressDaily, 5/12).