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August 10, 1998: A Patients' Bill of Rights

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When the bottom line becomes more important than patients' lives, when families have nowhere to turn when their loved ones are harmed by health care plans' bad decisions, when specialist care is denied and emergency care is not covered even when they are plainly needed and recommended by physicians, we must act. Whether in managed care or traditional care, every single American deserves quality care.

President Bill Clinton
August 10, 1998

Today, President Clinton travels to Louisville, Kentucky and delivers a speech on Patients' Bill of Rights. The President outlines his disagreements with Congressional Republican leadership's patients' bill or rights proposals, and announces his commitment to veto any legislation that does not adequately provide patient protections. The President also announces the release of an Office of Personnel Management regulation prohibiting gag rules by the 350 insurance companies who participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and serve 9 million federal employees and their families.

President Clinton Is Working To Ensure Basic Health Care Protections. Over nine months ago, President Clinton called on Congress to pass strong enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights legislation. The President has outlined protections he supports, including:

  • Guaranteed Access To Needed Health Care Specialists;
  • Access To Emergency Room Services When And Where The Need Arises;
  • Continuity Of Care Protections To Assure Patient Care will not change abruptly if their provider is dropped;
  • Access To A Timely Internal And Independent External Appeals Process for consumers to resolve their differences with their health plans;
  • A Limit On Financial Incentives To Doctors;
  • Assuring That Doctors And Patients Can Openly Discuss Treatment Options;
  • Assuring that Women Have Direct Access To An OB-GYN;
  • An Enforcement Mechanism That Ensures Recourse For Patients who have been maimed or die as a result of health plan actions.

The President Is Standing With Working Families Against Proposals that Are More Loophole Than Patient Protection. Current proposals by the Republican leadership in Congress are inadequate, they have more loopholes than protections. If Congress sends such flawed legislation to the President, he will veto it. The Republican leadership proposals:

  • Let HMO's, Not Health Professionals, Define Medical Necessity, making it very difficult for patients to prevail on an external appeal and get the treatment their doctors believe they need;
  • Allow Financial Incentives To Threaten Critical Patient Care. Republican proposals claim to protect patients from financial incentives to limit care, but in reality, apply this protection in a very limited number of circumstances;
  • Fail To Guarantee Direct Access To Specialists for patients with serious health problems;
  • Fail To Compensate Patients Who Have Suffered As A Result Of A Wrongful Health Plan Action;
  • Undermine Existing Medical Privacy Protections by preempting some existing medical privacy protections guaranteed by state law, without putting any protections in their place, thereby increasing the number or people who can review and give out a patient's health records without their knowledge;
  • Reverse Course On Emergency Room Protections by not requiring health plans to cover patients who go to an emergency room outside their network and not ensuring coverage for any treatment beyond an initial screening;
  • Do Not Cover All Health Plans, leaving, under one proposal, 100 million Americans without any protections.

A New Protection For Federal Employees. While the Republican leadership delays passing strong patient protections, the President is implementing the Patients' Bill of Rights for the 85 million Americans in federal health plans. Today, the President is announcing the release of a new regulation by the Office of Personnel Management prohibiting the 350 plans participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) from using gag clauses. This regulation will help ensure that health professionals can discuss all medical treatment options with their patients.

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