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The Clinton-Gore Administration: Working for a Strong, Enforceable Patient's Bill of Rights

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 3, 2000


Today, President Clinton will urge Congressional conferees to act in a bipartisan fashion and deliver a strong, enforceable Patientsí Bill of Rights. He will underscore his belief that the Norwood-Dingell bill is a strong basis for final legislation and should not be watered down. Joined by bipartisan members of Congress, including Representatives Norwood, Dingell, Ganske and Berry, as well as Senators Specter, Kennedy, Chafee and Graham, the President will urge Congress to act now to pass a strong patientsí bill of rights that provides protections for all Americans in health plans and holds health plans accountable for decisions that harm patients.

THE NORWOOD-DINGELL LEGISLATION IS THE ONLY REAL PATIENTSí BILL OF RIGHTS. The Norwood-Dingell Patientsí Bill of Rights, which is endorsed by over 200 health care providers and consumer advocacy groups, and 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 will not have an abrupt transition 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 planís actions.

THE SENATE BILL IS A PATIENTSí BILL OF RIGHTS IN NAME ONLY AND PROVIDES FEW REAL PROTECTIONS. The President will underscore his belief that the bill passed by the Senate is a Patients Bill of Rights in name only. It would:

  • Leave more than 110 million Americans without the guarantee of any basic protections and oversee less that 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 assure patients access to emergency room care 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 when they make harmful decisions.

PRESIDENT CLINTON WILL NOT SIGN A PATIENTSí BILL OF RIGHTS THAT REPRESENTS AN EMPTY PROMISE. Today, President Clinton will reiterate his refusal to enact legislation that does not provide strong patient protection for all Americans in health plans and include meaningful enforcement mechanisms. To date, there is no legislation other than the Norwood-Dingell bill that meets the Administrationís fundamental criteria: that patient protections be real and that court enforced remedies be accessible and meaningful.

PRESIDENT CLINTON UNDERSCORES HIS OPTIMISM THAT A STRONG PATIENTSí BILL OF RIGHTS WILL BE ENACTED THIS YEAR. Today, President Clinton will underscore his optimism that a strong Patientsí Bill of Rights will be enacted this year. Citing the Norwood-Dingell legislation, the President will highlight his belief that the momentum for this legislation is undeniable. He believes that the Congress will respond to the will of the public and pass a strong enforceable Patientsí Bill of Rights this year.

CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATIONíS LONGSTANDING COMMITMENT TO PROMOTING PATIENTSí RIGHTS. The Administration has a long history of promoting patientsí 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 Administrationís record on patientsí rights include:

  • 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 them with developing a patientsí bill of rights as their 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 October of 1997, the President accepted the Commissionís recommendation that all health plans should provide strong patient protection and called on the Congress to pass a strong enforceable patientsí bill of rights. He also called on the Congress to make passing the patientsí bill of rights a top priority in his 1998, 1999, and 2000 State of the Union Addresses.

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