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September 17, 1998

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Here's our bottom line: our health care system should value patients, not just the bottom line. Medical decisions should be made by informed medical doctors, not insurance company accountants.

President Bill Clinton
September 17, 1998

Today, President Clinton delivers a speech to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where he will announce that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has completed work on a new regulation to bring the Medicaid program into compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights. The President will reiterate his call for Congress to pass strong Patients' Bill of Rights legislation this year.

Giving Medicaid Patients The Protections They Deserve. The President will announce that HHS has completed a new regulation that will give over 20 million Medicaid beneficiaries in managed care plans the patient protections they deserve. This proposed regulation would require managed care plans in all fifty states to provide needed patient protections to Medicaid beneficiaries, including:

  • Access to the specialists they need;
  • Anti-gag rules to ensure that health professionals can discuss all medical treatment options with their patients;
  • Access to providers for women's health services;
  • Access to emergency room services when and where the need arises;
  • Disclosure of clear, up-to-date information about benefits, plan operations, and protections; and
  • A timely internal appeals process as well as an independent external appeals process;

Another Step For Patients' Rights To Americans In Federal Health Plans. Today's announcement is another step the President is taking to ensure that federal health plans are in compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights. In June, HHS extended the Patients' Bill of Rights to Medicare beneficiaries, and the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Office of Personnel Management have all taken steps to extend similar patient protections to servicemen and women, veterans, and federal employees. These efforts are extending important patient protections to tens of millions of Americans.

Standing With America's Families And Workers. President Clinton is opposed to provisions of the Republican Leadership bills which:

  • Let HMO's, not informed health professionals, define medical necessity;
  • Fail to guarantee direct access to specialists leaving patients with serious health problems like cancer and heart disease without the assurance that they can see the doctors they need;
  • Reverse course on emergency room protections that were included in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997;
  • Fail to protect patients from sudden health care changes which can occur when an employer changes medical plans;
  • Allow financial incentives to threaten critical patient care by failing to prohibit secret financial incentives to providers;
  • Undermine existing medical privacy protections, by preempting existing medical privacy protections guaranteed by state law without putting protections in their place;
  • Fail to compensate patients who have suffered harm as a result of a wrongful health plan action;
  • Do not cover all health plans and leave millions of Americans unprotected.

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