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May 25, 2000
Progress Of The Conference Committee On Managed Care Reform
Washington, DC —  The House passed a comprehensive managed care reform bill, HR 2723, on October 7, by an overwhelming bipartisan majority.   We have waited on the results of the conference with the Senate since that time.    

What does the HMO lobby hope to accomplish by delay?  I believe they feel that the entire issue will fade from the media’s attention and the public’s mind, so that they can quietly kill the bill, while their supporters in the House and Senate slither through the fall election unscathed.  

If that is the strategy, then the stacks of letters we have here today should serve as a wake-up call to this Congress.  I would like to read from just one:   

This from a 36-year old mother of three in New Jersey, who is also an RN: 
“Two years ago, after pursuing removal of a mole for seven months I finally found out that I had malignant melanoma cancer with metastasis to my lymph system which according to my oncologist occurred during the seven months that I fought for treatment but was denied.  ….when I found out, I was eight weeks pregnant and had to live with the horror of the possibility of my baby having the cancer.  My HMO had no specialist in its network to threat me for the cancer.  I pursued treatment,  only to have them deny payment...I remain in debt to the tune of near the hundred thousand dollar mark.”  

Every one of these letters say to include the Norwood-Dingell provisions on liability, scope, and external appeals, and that the Senate bill is inadequate.  

Those 24,000 letters are just the tip of the iceberg.  The latest public opinion poll that we are releasing here today makes clear that the American voter won’t stand for a conference failure.  

None other than the chief Republican pollster in the country, Frank Luntz, now reports the following:

  • 85% of Americans believe HMO reform is important 
  • 65% say it is VERY important 
  • 60% say they will vote against a member of Congress who won’t support HMO reform 

Now, Senator Nickles has long maintained he doesn’t want to pass anything that increases premium costs.  He knows full well that any bill that truly reforms managed care is going to be scored by CBO with a premium increase.   So Mr. Nickles really needs to listen to this one: 

  • 72% of Americans still want HMO reform even if it costs them an extra $15 a month in premiums. 
The overwhelming majority of the American people, as certified by Republican pollsters, disagree with the good Senator’s position.  The Senate has to change, or face the public in November.   

I’m here today to say time’s up on the conference committee.  We’ve waited eight months for this committee to approve a compromise bill.    Senate Republicans have yet to even offer a compromise liability proposal – they have only demanded that the House Conferees abandon their position.   

Maybe they are making an offer right now as we speak.  I know House Republicans have been working on offers that could kick start this process.  But make no mistake about it, the time is now.

Today I call on the 275 members of the House who voted yes on HR2723, and the 400 members who voted yes on liability to prepare for additional floor action.  

 If we don’t get a bill, or at least a tentative agreement in writing by the week we come back from Memorial Day, we must move past the conference. 

Starting today, I am working as if that will be the case.  I am willing to pass this measure through any means necessary.   Thank you.  


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