Statement of Congressman John D. Dingell
Ranking Democrat, House Commerce Committee

May 27, 1999


My colleagues and I today filed a rule to guarantee every Member of Congress an opportunity to vote on the Patients Bill of Rights.

We are doing this because we are left little choice. We have repeatedly asked the majority for a commitment to schedule managed care reform for a vote. In response, the Commerce Committee Chairman has committed only to holding hearings throughout the summer.

The leisurely pace he envisions is outlined in the letter Im making available to you. That schedule means that legislation wont be considered in Committee until the fall, at the earliest. Thats the very same time well be playing serious poker over appropriations bills and the budget. And that means that the full House wont see a vote on patient rights until next year, at the earliest -- placing the issue in the middle of the high Presidential season in Iowa, New Hampshire, and every other state that has moved its primary to the front of the year.

We may be forced to pursue a discharge petition on this rule because we have no other recourse. I continue to hope that a discharge petition will be unnecessary. I would prefer to write legislation in the regular process, but as of this date, there is no process.

There is no reason for delay. Weve been pursuing this issue for three years. There are no fewer than four comprehensive patient rights proposals on the table, and three of them have been drafted by Republicans. Weve filed an open rule to guarantee that every Member -- Democrat, Republican, left, right, Whig, Tory, Luddite or Anarchist -- will have a fair opportunity to amend the bill, to offer a substitute, and to vote up or down on the issue of patient rights.

Im prepared to defend my bill and my vote when I stand for reelection. Those who oppose meaningful and comprehensive patient rights should be willing to do the same. If the leadership is unwilling to schedule a vote, theyll have to explain for themselves exactly why they are running scared from the electorate.


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