QUALITY COMMISSION: Won’t Endorse Specific Legislation
In its final report, President Clinton's commission on health care quality yesterday declined to support legislation giving patients the right to sue their health plans over denied claims, but it "agreed without dissent" on the need for national quality health care standards. The New York Times reports the commission dealt the president a "setback" on his push for patients' rights legislation, but "it left open the possibility that voluntary efforts could achieve that goal without new federal laws." The panel recommended that "policymakers should engage in a national dialogue regarding the state of existing remedies for individuals ... who are injured as a result of inappropriate health care decisions" (Pear, 3/13).
The Washington Post reports that the commission recommended "setting up one public and one private panel to attempt to improve the quality of health care" (Havemann, 3/13). The public panel, called the Advisory Council for Health Care Quality, "would identify national health care quality improvement goals and track progress in meeting them." The private panel, the Forum for Health Care Quality Measurement and Reporting, "would bring together stakeholders in health care to determine the best way to measure and report health care quality indicators" (CongressDaily/A.M., 3/13). Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said the "new panels ... will help create a system in which consumers can make choices based on quality of health care, not just on costs and benefits" (Washington Post, 3/13).
Ready To Embrace
CongressDaily/A.M. reports that the commission's work will culminate this afternoon with the release of its final report at a White House ceremony. The commission will emphasize "a national commitment to quality improvement that begins with the president and Congress" (3/13). According to the Washington Post, White House officials say the "president will embrace the commission's key recommendations ... and move to put them into practice immediately." They also said Clinton "will announce this afternoon that federal agencies will begin meeting on quality issues within two weeks to lay the groundwork for the public advisory council, and that he will direct Vice President Gore to kick off the work of the private forum in June" (3/13). American Medical Association Chair Dr. Thomas Reardon, one of the commission's members, yesterday announced his group's official endorsement of the panel's goals for quality improvement (release, 3/12).
Political Fight Expected
Since the commission failed to recommend legislation, the New York Times notes, the "battle now shifts to Congress, where Democrats and some Republicans insist that new laws are needed to define and enforce patients' rights." White House health policy adviser Chris Jennings said the commission's recommendations "should be enacted into law." He said, "The president believes [consumer protections] cannot be achieved without federal legislation." The Times reports that Clinton "plans to intensify his push for legislation when he accepts the commission's report" today (3/13).
You've Done Well
The Healthcare Leadership Council praised the commission for acting "prudently" in declining to recommend legislation for patients' rights, saying that such laws carry "tremendous risks." "They have elected to act in the best interests of patients instead of the best interests of government," said Pamela Bailey, president of the council (HLC release, 3/12). The American Association of Health Plans commended the commission's emphasis on health care quality improvement, saying that its goals represent a consensus of consumers, health care providers, purchasers and health plans. "AAHP believes these goals lay an appropriate foundation for a broader discussion about quality in a market-based system," the group said in a prepared statement (AAHP release, 3/12). The American Hospital Association specifically praised the commission's plan for a private sector panel, asserting its belief that "the private sector can and must meet the challenge to implement the Consumer Bill of Rights" (AHA release, 3/12). Dan Danner, chair of the Health Benefits Coalition and vice president of the National Federation of Independent Business, noted that the commission's actions showed that neither it "nor the American people have an appetite for big government mandates that will increase health care costs for families and force millions to lose their coverage entirely" (HBC release, 3/12).