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June 12, 1999

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“We must do more to make sure that when health care plans cut costs they don't cut quality; and that the bottom line never becomes more important than patients' needs.”

President Bill Clinton
June 12, 1999

Today, in his weekly radio address, President Clinton urged Congress to allow a full debate to pass a strong, enforceable patients' bill of rights this summer. He commended the Republicans for making progress, but criticized their legislation for falling short in providing critical protections to American families.

Urging Congress to Pass a Strong, Enforceable Bill. More than a year and a half ago, President Clinton accepted the recommendations of a non-partisan quality commission and urged Congress to pass a patients' bill of rights to ensure that every health plan provides strong patient protections. His call to Congress was echoed by nearly every doctors' association, nurses' association, and patients' rights group in America. Today, the President again urged Congress to pass a bill in this legislative session that includes critical protections such as:

  • guaranteed access to needed health care specialists;
  • access to emergency room services when and where they are needed;
  • continuity-of-care protections 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 gives recourse to patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions.

Criticizing Republican Piecemeal Approach. The President emphasized that the current Republican leadership bills fall far short of providing American families with the protections they need in a changing health care system. The Republican bills would leave tens of millions of Americans without basic protections, including:

  • no access to necessary specialists, such as oncologists and cardiologists;
  • failure to guarantee continuity-of-care protections, leaving patients at risk of having to change doctors abruptly in the middle of treatment;
  • no effective mechanism to ensure that patients have access to emergency room care when and where the need arises;
  • a weak, watered-down appeals process that is biased against patients; and
  • no strong enforcement mechanism for patients to hold health plans accountable when they make harmful decisions.

Highlighting a Strong Record on Patients' Rights. The Clinton-Gore Administration has a long history of supporting patients' rights, such as the right to see a specialist, to receive emergency room care whenever and wherever necessary, and to hold health plans accountable for harmful decisions. President Clinton has already used his authority to give many of these rights to the 85 million Americans who get their health care through federal plans.


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