PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Top Senate Democrat Defends Legislation
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) today responds to a July 29 column by Washington Post columnist David Broder that criticized Democrats for insisting that patients be given the right to sue their health plans. In his column, Broder insisted that many HMO horror stories are anecdotal and should not be used as an excuse to impose mandates on managed care plans. But Daschle responds, "[I]sn't it a worthy effort to struggle to eliminate those exceptions? Both the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association think so, and that is why their members are strong supporters of our bill." On the HMO liability issue, Daschle argues that the Democratic bill's primary focus is to give "patients the right to appeal HMO decisions to an independent third-party review board and get a timely, legally binding response." He continues, "We believe most insurers will abide by the decisions of the independent review board. If they choose not to, however, and their actions result in serious injury or death, there must be some way to hold them accountable. That is why our bill gives people the right to sue their HMO -- not their employer." Overall, Daschle says he shares Broder's "frustration that the rhetoric accompanying [HMO reform] legislation seems more a response to polls than to patients." He concludes, "I'm hopeful that before Congress adjourns for this year, we can cut through the noise, cut out the politics and pass a strong Patients' Bill of Rights for the president to sign into law" (Washington Post, 8/21).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.