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    JULY 1, 1999

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Press Release

Press Release

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Boehner: Fate of Managed Care
Bill Hinges on Uninsured
Boehner Repeats Call for Democratic Leaders
to Address Needs of 43 Million Uninsured


WASHINGTON - With Congress' Independence Day break fast approaching, U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) today repeated calls for managed care reforms that address the needs of America's 43 million uninsured patients, and urged House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO) to allow Democrats to work with Republicans to ensure passage of a meaningful patient protection bill.

"We've come a long way since February in the effort to make health care more accountable, affordable, and accessible. But before we can get there, there are two big hurdles we have to cross," Boehner said. "One is the problem of the 43 million Americans who don't have health insurance. The other is politics."

Boehner has introduced the Health Care Quality & Access Act (HCQUA), legislation designed to allow Congress to move forward with the many elements of health care reform on which bipartisan agreement already exists.

Though all eight measures passed the House Employer-Employee Relations subcommittee intact on June 16th, Boehner expressed concern that Democrats on the panel were being pressured by their party leadership to avoid cooperating with Republicans on managed care reform. The plan favored by the Democratic leadership does not address the problems of the uninsured -- and would increase the number of patients without coverage by as many as 2 million nationwide, according to a 1998 study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

"Our responsibility is to find a balanced approach that reflects the needs of all patients - both insured, and uninsured," Boehner said. "Managed care patients need strong new protections, and so do the 43 million Americans who have no health coverage. We can't address one problem without addressing the other. We have an obligation to help them all, and that's what this legislation does. "

HCQUA includes a proposal by U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R-MO) that allows small employers to pool their resources and purchase quality health plans for their employees. The majority of America's 43 million uninsured work for small employers who cannot afford to provide employee health coverage - a problem HCQUA would directly address.

Boehner again cited specific examples from Ohio's 8th District that underscore the need to proceed with reforms that limit costs and address the needs of the uninsured:

  • In Butler County, Ohio, high costs forced the closing this spring of two area clinics that serve nearly 7,000 uninsured patients.

  • In Mercer County, Ohio, a study by Wright State University revealed that more than 2,400 local children and adults have no health insurance, according to the Celina Daily Standard - most of them local residents working for small employers who cannot afford to offer quality health plans for their employees.

  • In Miami County, Ohio, another Wright State study indicated approximately 12 percent of the county's population is uninsured, according to the Troy Daily News.

  • According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, almost 1.3 million Ohioans -- nearly 11.6 percent of Ohio's population - were without health insurance in 1997, Boehner pointed out. U.S. Census data from 1998 shows an overwhelming number of uninsured patients in the home states of every member of the Democratic leadership:

  • In St. Louis, Missouri (home base of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt), about one in every 10 patients is uninsured. Approximately 669,000 Missourians are uninsured.

  • In Michigan, represented by Minority Whip David Bonior and Commerce Committee ranking member John Dingell (lead sponsor of the Democratic leadership bill), more than 1.1 million patients have no health insurance.

In addition to directly addressing the problems of the uninsured, Boehner's Health Care Quality & Access Act would also:

  • Guarantee managed care patients the right to a strong, enforceable, legally-binding external review by independent doctors and medical experts in the event of dispute with their health plan.

  • Guarantee women the right to bypass the insurance company gatekeeper and go directly to OB-GYNs and similar specialists.

  • Guarantee patient access to emergency room care.

  • Guarantee parents the right to select a pediatrician as their child's primary care physician.

  • Remove "gag rules" that prohibit doctors from telling patients about their full range of medical treatment options.

  • Guarantee patients the right to know exactly what their plan covers and doesn't cover ahead of time.

  • Create an independent patient protection commission to advise Congress on health care policy issues and help to insulate such issues from partisan politics.

"Republicans and Democrats may not share the same political goals with regard to health care, but I think we share many of the same policy goals," Boehner said. "We have a responsibility to patients to focus on the many things we agree on, and get them done."

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