June 23, 1999
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) today signed a petition to bring the "Patients' Bill of Rights" to the House floor immediately. If at least 218 House members sign it, the legislation will be "discharged" from the committee where it is being held back, and brought to the House floor for debate.
"This bill lays down patient protection rules that all health plans must meet," said Spratt. "It helps Americans get the health care they've been promised and paid for. It was introduced in the last Congress, introduced again in January, and its consideration by the House is long past due."
Spratt said the Patients' Bill of Rights would:
Over 180 groups support the Patients' Bill of Rights, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and Families USA.
Spratt said the Patients' Bill of Rights, which he has cosponsored, grew out of months of discussions with health care providers, health insurance plans, and consumer groups. "One of our aims is to codify the best practices of best plans in the country. Another is to deal with patients' complaints that are the most common nationwide," he said.
Two weeks ago, House Republican leaders announced their intention to bring forward a series of small, piecemeal bills. They claim these measures will provide greater patient protection. To this end, the Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations marked up a package of eight small managed care "reform" bills last week. Democrats tried repeatedly during the subcommittee markup to strengthen the bills, but were rebuffed by their Republican colleagues. Like the managed care reform bill passed in 1998, these eight piecemeal bills fail to contain certain patient protections and provide watered-down versions of others.
The American Medical Association and 31 other key organizations criticized House Republican leaders, saying the legislation "falls well short of the mark, both in terms of the provisions contained in the bill and in terms of those provisions that are not currently included in the legislation."
Spratt said the "discharge petition" he signed is designed to bring the comprehensive Patients' Bill of Rights immediately to the House floor. "The discharge petition would make in order a rule providing for open debate on all major managed care reform proposals, including the Patients' Bill of Rights," said Spratt. "If we get enough names, it will put managed care reform at the forefront of our agenda. Since the leaders in the House appear unwilling to bring up this legislation, supporters of the Patients' Bill of Rights have been left no choice except to move a petition that will give us a vote on managed care reform that is worthy of the name."
Spratt said that when the bill came to the floor in the last Congress, it lacked five votes of passing. A Republican substitute passed in its place which, in Spratt's words, "was weak and went nowhere."
Said Spratt: "I think we have more than made up for the five votes we needed in the last Congress. If we can get this bill to the floor, we've got a good shot at passing it."