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July 9, 1999

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Next week, the Senate has a historic opportunity to pass a real Patients' Bill of Rights that puts patients' needs above the bottom line...and puts politics aside for the good of our families.
President Bill Clinton
July 9, 1999

Today, in Los Angeles, President Clinton urged the Senate to hold a full and fair debate next week to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. While commending Senator Lott for agreeing to schedule a vote on this issue, the President criticized the Republican leadership bill as inadequate for failing to include critical protections for American families. The President also called on Congress to move forward on a plan to strengthen and modernize Medicare for the 21st Century.

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. Since then, thousands of doctors and nurses, over 200 medical and consumer groups, and many health care and public-sector unions have endorsed the President's plan for patient protections. Today, the President called on the Senate to hold a full and fair debate next week and pass a patients' bill of rights 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 and to help govern decisions about medically necessary treatments;
  • a mechanism that gives recourse to patients who have been harmed as a result of a health plan's actions; and
  • protections for all Americans in all health plans.

President Clinton has already granted the protection of a Patients' Bill of Rights to the 85 million Americans who get their health care through federal plans.

Republican Approach Leaves Millions Without Protections. The President emphasized that the current Republican plan would leave over 110 million Americans without basic protections, including:

  • no access to necessary specialists, such as oncologists and cardiologists;
  • leaving patients at risk of having to change doctors abruptly in the middle of treatment;
  • no 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 enforcement mechanism for patients to hold health plans accountable when they make harmful decisions.

Stressing the Urgency of Strengthening and Modernizing Medicare. President Clinton urged Congress to work with him in the coming weeks on his plan to strengthen and modernize Medicare for the 21st Century. The President's plan would:

  • make Medicare more competitive and efficient;
  • modernize and reform Medicare's benefits, including prescription drug and preventive care benefits; and
  • extend the life of the Medicare trust fund until 2027.

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