President Clinton Urges Senate Republicans to Pass a Real Patients' Bill of Rights Without Delay, Launches Patients' Rights Tour 2000
September 14, 2000
Today, President Clinton will call on the Senate Republican leadership to bring the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights legislation to a vote and pass the bill without further delay. The President will underscore his concern about, and disappointment with, threats by some within the Senate Republican leadership to use procedural tactics, such as a filibuster, to thwart the will of the majority. The President and Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, will be joined by the American Medical Association's Dr. Andy Anderson and doctors from the American Osteopathic Association, in launching the Patients' Rights Tour 2000, a national tour sponsored by Families USA and grassroots organizations to highlight the costs and consequences to millions of Americans of delaying passage of this critical legislation.
PRESIDENT CLINTON CHALLENGES THE SENATE TO VOTE ON THE NORWOOD-DINGELL PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS. The President will point out that a majority of the Senate supports a strong, enforceable, Patients' Bill of Rights similar to the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell legislation, and will challenge the Leadership to bring it up for a vote. This legislation is endorsed by over 300 health care provider and consumer advocacy groups, and is the only bipartisan proposal currently being considered that includes:
- Protections for all Americans in all health plans;
- Protections from financial sanctions for patients receiving emergency room care;
- Guarantees that assure access to necessary and accessible health care specialists;
- Guarantees that assure access to a fair and timely internal and independent external appeals process to address health plan grievances; and
- Meaningful enforcement mechanisms that ensure recourse for patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions.
PROCEDURAL TACTICS SHOULD NOT BE USED TO PREVENT THE PASSAGE OF A STRONG PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS. President Clinton will reiterate his concern that Senate Republicans have indicated their intention to filibuster this legislation and to use procedural tactics to thwart the will of the majority. He will encourage the Senate to hold a straight up-or-down vote on the Norwood-Dingell legislation without delay.
DELAY IN PASSING THE PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS THREATENS THE HEALTH OF ALMOST 50,000 AMERICANS EACH DAY. Today, Families USA will begin its Patients' Rights 2000 tour, highlighting that unnecessary delay in passing legislation to curb insurance company abuse results in harm to thousands of patients daily and millions of patients annually. According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, each day without a strong Patients' Bill of Rights results in 49,560 people being denied care or experiencing a delay in the receipt of care.
FLAWED SENATE REPUBLICAN BILL REPRESENTS AN EMPTY PROMISE. Instead of the strong legislation passed by the House, the Republican Senate has passed a bill that would:
- Leave more than 135 million Americans without the guarantee of full protections;
- Allow health plans to subject patients accessing emergency care to high financial penalties;
- Fail to guarantee true access to necessary health care specialists;
- Fail to provide access to important clinical trials; and
- Establish a wholly inadequate enforcement mechanism that prevents patients from holding health plans accountable when they make harmful decisions.
CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION'S LONGSTANDING COMMITMENT TO PROMOTING PATIENTS' RIGHTS. The Administration has a long history of promoting patients' rights, and President Clinton has already extended many of these protections through executive action to the 85 million Americans who get their health care through federal plans – from Medicare and Medicaid, to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP), to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. The Administration's record on patients' rights includes:
- Appointing a Quality Commission to examine potential quality concerns in the changing health care industry. In 1997, the President created a non-partisan, broad-based Commission on quality and charged it with developing a patients' bill of rights as its first order of business. The Quality Commission released two seminal reports focusing on patient protections and quality improvement.
- Challenging Congress to Pass a Patients' Bill of Rights. In November 1997, the President accepted the Commission's recommendation that all health plans should provide strong patient protections and called on the Congress to pass a strong enforceable patients' bill of rights. He also called on the Congress to make passing the patients' bill of rights a top priority in his 1998, 1999, and 2000 State of the Union Addresses.