Urging Americans to Vote to Continue Progress on Priorities
Like Protecting Patients' Rights
Today, the President will urge all Americans to exercise their right to vote to decide how best to maintain and build on the progress and prosperity the nation has achieved. He will emphasize that every vote counts because next Tuesday's election will help decide the future direction of the nation. He will cite the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights as an example of what a difference elected leaders can make. Despite a bipartisan majority of support in the Congress, the Republican Leadership has let another year go by without passing a Patients' Bill of Rights, refusing to schedule a vote and thus effectively killing this important legislation. Today, the President will take executive action to extend patient protections to 130 million Americans in private health plans by directing the Secretary of Labor to release regulations within the next two weeks that require health plans to provide a fair and unbiased appeals process for patients when coverage has been denied or delayed.
REQUIRING HEALTH PLANS TO PROVIDE FAIR AND TIMELY APPEALS PROCESS. The President will issue an Executive Memorandum to Labor Secretary Alexis Herman directing the Department to release final appeals and consumer information regulations within two weeks. Under current law, health plans making coverage decisions often do not have medical expertise to make such decisions, and appeals of coverage decisions can take as long as 300 days. Consequently, countless patients have been harmed by inappropriate delays and denials of coverage. This new regulation will establish a fair and unbiased process for reviewing medical benefits claims, require timely coverage and appeals decisions, and direct health plans to provide meaningful information to patients advising them of their rights to the appeals process. It will apply to all private Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) health plans sponsored by employers, which cover over 130 million working Americans and their families.
BUILDING ON STRONG CLINTON-GORE PATIENTS' PROTECTIONS RECORD. The Clinton-Gore Administration has consistently promoted patient protections for all Americans. In 1993, the Administration proposed wide-ranging consumer protections. In 1996, as part of the historic Kennedy-Kassebaum insurance reform law, the President enacted new executive authority for the establishment of privacy protections for medical records. Later that year, he called for the establishment of the non-partisan Quality Commission, co-chaired by Labor Secretary Herman and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, which released two seminal reports focusing on patient protections and quality improvement. In November 1997, the President accepted the Commission's recommendation that all health plans should provide strong patient protections and called on the Congress to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. Since that time, he and Vice President Gore have been working in the Congress to form a bipartisan majority in both Houses of Congress for the Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights. In the face of Congressional inaction, the President has extended many consumer 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. Today represents the latest Administrative action to expand patient protections.
ENCOURAGING AMERICANS TO MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD ON AMERICA'S PRIORITIES. Today, the President will call on all Americans to fulfill their civic duty and go to the polls on Election Day to make their voices heard. On Tuesday, Americans will cast their votes and decide who they believe will represent their best interest and continue on the path of maintaining fiscal discipline while investing in America's priorities, such as:
- Ensuring a Strong, Enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights. All Americans in all health plans deserve to have the right to see a specialist, to go to the nearest emergency room, insure continuity of care during a treatment, and to hold health plans accountable for actions that have caused harm or death. However, the only way to insure that these protections are applied throughout the nation to all plans is to pass meaningful consumer protections, such as those included in the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights.
- Ensuring that All Americans Share in our Prosperity. In this time of unprecedented prosperity, America's hard working families deserve targeted tax cuts that reward retirement savings, expand college opportunity, and help with child care and long-term care. This can be achieved while maintaining our nation's fiscal discipline, strengthening the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, investing in other key priorities, and paying off the debt by 2012. A proposed $1 increase in the minimum wage would return its real value to the level it was in 1982 and help more than 10 million workers make ends meet. The bipartisan New Markets/Community Renewal would spur business investment in our nation's economically distressed urban and rural communities.
- Ensuring a First-Class Education for Our Children. We need to invest more and demand more in our public schools so that all children have a high quality education, safe and modern school buildings, qualified teachers, small classes, after-school and summer school opportunities, and greater access to higher education.
- Providing a Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit and Other Key Health Priorities. Three out of five Medicare beneficiaries have inadequate or no prescription drug coverage and need a voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit in the context of broader reform that extends the life of the Trust Fund. In addition, although the nation has made progress in expanding insurance to 2.5 million children, we need to build on this success by expanding coverage options to at least 5 million Americans, including parents, 55- to 65-year-olds, employees of small business, and legal immigrants. And finally, it is imperative that we provide for long-term care assistance for Americans of all ages.
- Protecting All Americans and Their Communities. On Tuesday Americans will decide whether we will continue on the path of ensuring equal treatment and protections for all Americans. Exercising the right to vote on Election Day is critical to providing crime-free streets, global leadership and security, a clean environment, fairness for immigrants, equal pay, and protections against hate crimes.