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"Well over 70 percent of all Americans, without regard to their political party, support a strong, enforceable patients' bill of rights. The American people support it and they're entitled to have their elected representatives ratify it."

President Bill Clinton
Friday, March 3, 2000

Today, at the White House, President Clinton called on Congress to act now to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights that provides protections for all Americans in health plans and holds health plans accountable for decisions that harm patients. Joined by members of Congress from both parties, including Representatives Norwood, Dingell, Ganske, and Berry, and Senators Specter, Kennedy, Chafee, and Graham, the President urged Congressional conferees to act in a bipartisan fashion, and underscored his belief that the Norwood-Dingell bill is a strong basis for final legislation and should not be watered down.

Endorsing the Norwood-Dingell Legislation. The Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights, which is endorsed by over 200 health care providers and consumer advocacy groups, is the only bipartisan proposal currently being considered that includes:

  • Guaranteed access to needed health care specialists;
  • Access to emergency room services when and where the need arises;
  • Continuity-of-care protection so that patients won't have an abrupt change in care if their providers are dropped;
  • Access to a fair, unbiased and timely internal and independent external appeals process to address health plan grievances;
  • Assurance that doctors and patients can openly discuss treatment options; and
  • An enforcement mechanism that ensures recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions.

Senate Bill Falls Short on Patients' Rights. The legislation passed by the Senate would:

  • Leave more than 110 million Americans without the guarantee of any basic protections and oversee less than 10 percent of HMOs nationwide (as it only covers self-insured health plans);
  • Fail to provide access to necessary specialists, such as oncologists and cardiologists;
  • Fail to guarantee continuity-of-care protections, leaving patients at risk of having to abruptly change doctors in the middle of treatment;
  • Fail to provide effective protection to ensure emergency room access when and where the need arises;
  • Construct a weak, watered-down appeals process that is biased against patients;
  • Fail to provide a strong enforcement mechanism for patients to hold health plans accountable for making harmful decisions.

A Commitment To Strong Patient Protections. Highlighting his belief that the momentum for this legislation is undeniable, President Clinton expressed optimism that a strong Patients' Bill of Rights will be enacted this year. The President reiterated his refusal to enact legislation that does not provide strong patient protections for all Americans in health plans and include meaningful enforcement mechanisms. The Clinton-Gore Administration has a long history of promoting patients' rights, and the President has already extended many of these protections through executive action to the 85 million Americans who get their health care through federal plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, the Department of Defense, and the Veterans Administration.

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