PENNSYLVANIA: House Passes Patients’ Rights Legislation
The state House passed a patients' rights bill Wednesday "covering a long list of consumer health services, ranging from reimbursement for hearing aids to diabetic supplies." Passage came despite the fact that "lawmakers understood that few of the amendments would eventually become law," because many provisions "were added so that legislators could show voters and supporters, in an election year, that they had backed the proposals." The AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the state Senate "is likely to reject most of" the House-passed provisions. However, senators are "expected to keep at least one, which establishes a grievance process for patients" in managed care plans. Another measure that "might survive," according to House Insurance Committee Chair Nicholas Micozzie (D), "would allow consumers to go directly to a hospital emergency room without their insurer's authorization" (5/7). Senators are also expected to reject an amendment introduced by state Rep. Richard Olasz (D) to require health plans to spend up to "90% of all premium dollars" on patient care, "leaving 10% for administrative and marketing costs" (Barbagello, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 5/7).
Democrats "advised the GOP-controlled Senate to keep the latest version of the bill intact, saying it contained vast improvements for consumer rights." Stephen MacNett, general counsel for the Senate Republicans, said that "each amendment would be evaluated for its financial effect on the health care system." Both House and Senate Republican leaders, "and at least one major health insurer, warned that the cost of health care would skyrocket if the" House bill is enacted. "Each time you raise the cost of a health care premium one percent, it can result in as many as 400,000 people losing health insurance coverage," said a spokesperson for Highmark, the former Pennsylvania Blue Shield plan (AP/Inquirer, 5/7). Click here to view information on the House-passed amendments posted on the House Democratic Caucus' Website.