Stark Reports a Victory on Managed Care Reform:
The House Approves Patients'
Bill of Rights Legislation

Good news on managed care reform: this fall has proven productive for reform efforts. We've seen California pass strong managed care legislation at the state level that includes health plan liability, external appeals, right to second opinions, and protections for mental illness. The US House of Representatives has passed a strong federal managed care reform bill as well.

The Bipartisan Consensus Managed Care Reform bill passed the House by a stunning margin of 275-151. It was a battle to even get this legislation to the floor of the House. We were able to win because of the strong voice of people across the country calling for Congressional action on managed care reform.

The bill we passed is a strong one. It would hold health plans liable for their medical decision-making, much like California's state law. This provision is absolutely vital to meaningful reform. Only the strong threat of liability will be enough to change health plan behavior. Coupled with the independent, external appeals provision, and many other consumer protections in the legislation, this bill would be a huge victory for the American public if it became law.

We still have quite a fight ahead of us. The US Senate passed a much weaker managed care reform bill and now the differences between the two bills must be negotiated in a House-Senate conference. The current GOP Leadership has made clear that they do not want to push forward with real managed care reform, like reform that includes a legal remedy for those who have been wrongfully denied care. In fact, given their druthers, they would probably let the managed care reform bills die in negotiation. I certainly don't want that to happen and will be working with my colleagues from both parties who support real managed care reform, as well as with the Administration, and consumer and health advocates to see that we get a strong managed care reform bill to the President's desk to be signed into law.

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