Stakes High for Key Players in Patients’ Rights Debate
With the "drama" surrounding "long-sought" patients' rights legislation unfolding, the Wall Street Journal outlines the major players in the debate -- President Bush and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
- Bush: While Bush vetoed one version of patients' rights legislation as governor of Texas, he signed a different version of the bill and allowed a measure that permits patients to sue their HMOs to become law without his signature. In Washington, Bush has sent a letter to lawmakers outlining "principles" that he favors in a patients' rights bill with "important limits" -- allowing patients to sue HMOs in federal court, not state court, and capping damages "much lower" than the $5 million proposed by others in the debate;
- McCain: The Arizona senator, who "drove the Bush team crazy" in the 2000 Republican primary, unveiled his own patients' rights bill a few weeks ago. The bill would send lawsuits to state courts and cap damages at $5 million. In response, a "perturbed" White House urged other Republicans to "slow down the McCain train";
- Edwards: An "attractive and articulate new face" in the debate, Edwards "signed on" to McCain's bill, insisting that he hopes to pass legislation that "gets most HMO disputes settled by medical appeals boards";
- Frist: The "confident"-sounding Tennessee senator has discussed patients' rights legislation with McCain and Edwards and has vowed to craft a bill that Bush, McCain and Edwards would support.
While some form of patients' right legislation "seems tantalizingly close," as both the public and lawmakers support the issue, the Journal says, "Suddenly, the question of who gets credit if something happens -- and who gets blame if nothing does -- is much more interesting" (Seib, Wall Street Journal, 3/7).
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