PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Senate GOP Plan To Be Unveiled Today
The Washington Post reports that "Senate Republican leaders plan this morning to unveil their version of legislation to strengthen the government's regulation of managed health care ... set[ting] the stage for the final battle this year over a new generation of federal health reform." The Senate proposal "resembles" the House GOP plan in that it "omits any effort to broaden patients' ability to sue their health plans for malpractice." According to sources, senate Republicans also want to make it easier for patients to get HMO coverage for emergency services, "ensure that doctors can discuss expensive treatments with their patients and create stronger avenues of appeal when patients are denied care they deserve."
Unlike the House GOP measure, the Senate plan "will not include two controversial provisions intended to make it easier for small businesses to afford health insurance." In addition, the Senate measure "would prohibit insurance companies from using family history of disease or genetic tests in deciding how much to charge a patient for coverage." Patients would also get expanded access to their medical records, although the Senate plan "may include less detailed protections of the confidentiality of those records than similar bills" (Goldstein, 7/15). CongressDaily/A.M. notes that the Senate plan "also would provide tax privileges that Republicans have long supported, including immediate 100% deductibility for self-employed people who buy their own health insurance" and expanded access to medical savings accounts (Norton, 7/15). The Post notes that the Senate bill "would promise some patients access to 'point-of- service' plans that permit more choice of physicians than traditional" HMOs (7/15).
The Los Angeles Times reports that the "'poison pill' in the GOP bill is a vast expansion in the availability of medical savings accounts." The White House and other MSA critics believe "that expanding the availability of the accounts could lead more people to choose minimal insurance coverage and, as a result, get less preventive health care" (Rubin, 7/15).
The Democrats' Issue
House and Senate Democrats today will convene a hearing on the patients' rights issue. Both Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) will participate in the hearing, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. (CongressDaily/A.M., 7/15). Today, President Clinton "is scheduled to pay a visit" to the American Medical Association's Washington office to "lead a discussion with doctors and patients about problems they have encountered with managed care plans." Tomorrow, Clinton will "go to Capitol Hill to hold a Democratic 'unity' rally with congressional Democrats on the managed care bill."
Good News For Dems?
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Congressional Budget Office this week "is expected to release its estimates of the costs of implementing the Democratic plan, including the right to sue." Sources "familiar with the estimates" say the CBO analysis is "good news" for Democrats (McGinley/Burkins, 7/15).