Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Wisconsin - Second District

1020 Longworth H.O.B. Washington, D.C. 20515 Phone: 202-225-2906 Fax: 202-225-6942

October 7, 1999
Contact: Brad Fitch

Direct Line: 202-226-6721


House Takes Dramatic Vote on Landmark Legislation

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI-02) today hailed the passage of landmark legislation to provide patients with more rights to determine the course of their own health care. The bipartisan bill, "The Managed Care Improvement Act," passed the House of Representatives after a contentious debate by a vote of 275 to151. The bill represents a "Patients' Bill of Rights," guaranteeing patients access to the nearest emergency room in an emergency, the right to see appropriate specialists when necessary, and the right to sue managed care insurance companies if the decisions the companies make result in harm or death.

During floor debate in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Baldwin, who has made health care her top priority in Congress, said the time had come for managed care reform. "There was a time when we paid our health insurance premiums trusting that when we got sick our doctor would make his or her recommendations for treatment and our health insurance would pay for that treatment. This just does not seem to be the case any more. We no longer trust that the best medical decisions are being made in this system, and too many people with health care coverage are being driven into debt because necessary treatment is not being covered by their managed care company," she said.

The legislation cosponsored by Congresswoman Baldwin was endorsed by the State Medical Society of Wisconsin. In a letter released yesterday, Dr. Jack Lockhart, President of the Society, called on Congress to pass real managed care reform instead of "meaningless partisan bills." "The `profit over patients' style of management that rules many managed care organizations means doctors find their hands are often tied when it comes to getting authorization to give the treatments that they believe are needed for their patients. Some managed care companies are telling doctors treatments are not needed even without looking at the patient. We are forced to spend more and more time on the phone advocating for our patients because our medical judgement is being second-guessed by people without medical expertise," Dr. Lockhart said.

The Managed Care Improvement Act passed the House after a series of amendments meant to weaken the measure were defeated by a bipartisan coalition of House members. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed a much weaker version of a "Patients' Bill of Rights." The differences between the two bills will now be worked out by Members of Congress in a joint House-Senate conference committee and eventually sent back to both chambers for a final vote probably some time next year.

Congresswoman Baldwin also said she hoped that Congress would address the broader health care needs that still exist in the U.S. "Six years ago we were promised reform that would guarantee all Americans the health care they needed. That vision was not realized. In this time of economic prosperity, in this time of rapidly changing medicine, in this time of political opportunity, I think it is time that we renew our commitment to health care security for all; and when I think about what that means, I believe that health care security for all encompasses both the notion that we must cover the uninsured and the effort to fully protect those who already have health care coverage but find that is not the security blanket that they thought they had purchased," she said.