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Copyright 2000 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. 
(f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.)  
Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

March 02, 2000


LENGTH: 1267 words


OPENING STATEMENT BY SENATOR BARBARA A. MIKULSKI FOR PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MARCH 2, 2000 Mr. Chairmen, members of the Conference Committee, I am here today with high hopes that we can roll up our sleeves and work together to pass a real Patients' Bill of Rights to provide Marylanders and all Americans with better health care. I hope that you will join me in putting the needs of patients ahead of partisanship, just as the House of Representatives did when it passed its strong bipartisan bill. One of my most important responsibilities here in the Senate is to meet the day-to-day needs of the American people. One of those needs is the right to quality health care. We have all heard the horror stories about regular Americans who are denied medically necessary treatments because large HMOs want to increase their profits. In this century we have made more scientific and medical breakthroughs than we have during any other century in American history. In the United States, we figured out how to handle infectious diseases, we developed lifesaving pharmaceuticals, and we invented lifesaving surgical techniques. But while we were making those breakthroughs, we also invented insurance gatekeepers who prevent you from having access to them. This doesn't make sense. If we are really going to take America into the 21st Century, we must continue our discovery and our research, and we must have access to those discoveries. Let me tell you what my principles are for any HMO reform bill: I am fighting to put patients first not profits. Health care decisions should be made in the consultation room by the doctor, not in the boardroom by an insurance executive. Patients should have the right to receive treatment that is medically necessary, by the most appropriate health care provider, using best practices. Patients need continuity of care. Patients must be able to hold their health plan accountable for medical decisions, even if it means seeking redress in the courts. I have heard from many Marylanders who are having Problems with their health insurance or EMO. Whether it was claims or care denied or endless bureaucratic run-arounds, the American people call on us to act. They know that when life-or-death health care decisions become simple dollars-and-cents business decisions, America's health care system is in crisis. There are three issues that are especially important to me. 1he first is making sure that People have access to emergency care in any situation that a "prudent lay person would regard as an emergency. If you are a 75 year old woman who is having chest Pains in the middle of the night, you should only have to worry about getting to the hospital, not dialing an 800 number. The second issue is continuity of care. I believe that patients who are seriously or chronically ill should not be forced to change doctors right at a critical time during their course of treatment. Finally, I care deeply about the women's health issues in this debate. We shouldn't allow women who've undergone a mastectomy to be booted out of the hospital before they are ready. And we should protect the ability of a woman to see her ob/gyn without a lot of red tape. I am proud that my state of Maryland has been on the forefront of these issues, having already enacted changes such as improved emergency room access, access for women to OB/GYN care as primary care, anti-gag rules, and a strong grievance and appeal process for coverage decisions. Yet, Marylanders would also benefit enormously from many of the improvements we are poised to act on - especially Marylanders who work for "self-insured" employers that are exempt from state regulation - who would benefit tremendously from the bipartisan House bill. And every American deserves these protections regardless of where they have and what kind of insurance they have. I hope that we can work together to pass a meaningful managed care reform bill that will improve the quality of health care for all Americans. I am ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to achieve this goal. Thank you.

LOAD-DATE: March 6, 2000

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