Congressman Jerry Kleczka

For Immediate Release                                                                                 (202) 225-4572
Kleczka sponsors Patients' Bill of Rights
"People are losing faith with the health care system in America"

WASHINGTON, DC - January 21, 1999 - Consumers need a meaningful Patients' Bill of Rights to get the health care they've been promised and have paid for, said Wisconsin Rep. Jerry Kleczka (D-4th).

"While health care premiums continue to escalate, the options and responsibilities of managed health care continue to shrink," said Kleczka, an original co-sponsor of the bill. Physicians, too, are calling for change, Kleczka noted. In recent remarks American Medical Association President president Nancy Dickey said the health care system is a "mess" and that reform is desperately needed.

The Patients' Bill of Rights would prohibit plans from gagging doctors who wish to talk about treatment options, ban incentives to limit medically necessary services, allow women to designate their OB/GYN as a primary care provider, hold health plans accountable for the medical decisions they make, and allow a minimum 48-hour hospital stay for mastectomy operations. The American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association support the bill.

"Doctors, not insurance company executives, should be making our medical decisions," Kleczka said. "America's health care system is in need of a major infusion of trust. Women should no longer be hustled to the hospital exit door only hours after breast surgery. Doctors should no longer win incentives for denying patient care."

Kleczka noted that the Patient's Bill or Rights lost by only five votes last year in the House.

"The American public demands health care reform," Kleczka said. He called on Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert to begin the session on a bi-partisan note by pledging swift action on the Patient's Bill of Rights. Hastert last session chaired a task force that wrote a Republican health care reform bill that was roundly criticized for falling short of providing for critical patient protections.