Access to Emergency Rooms, Expand Medical Protections for Women;

Press Release
July 13, 1999

Daschle: Senate Republicans Reject Efforts to Ensure Health Plans Allow
Access to Emergency Rooms, Expand Medical Protections for Women;

Says GOP Also Rejects Protections For Over 100 Million Privately-Insured Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Daschle said he is deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans today rejected Democratic proposals to ensure that families in South Dakota and across the country have access to emergency room care and that women have greater health care protections.

He said Republicans also pushed through their own amendment late Tuesday gutting Democratic efforts to ensure that patient protections are extended to all 161 million privately-insured Americans. Republicans would guarantee protections only for the 48 million covered under self-funded employer health plans, he said.

Daschle said Democrats offered the measures during debate over his "Patients' Bill of Rights" because millions of Americans can now be denied medical services by health plans trying to save money.

Guaranteed Access to Emergency Care Voted Down By Republicans

"Our amendment to ensure emergency room care clearly stated that patients in an emergency can go to the first emergency room available and be covered by their health plan," Daschle said. "The Republicans, by voting against this protection, want to continue the practice of allowing an insurance company to decide whether patients can go to the closest emergency room, or if they have to go to a pre-approved facility."

Daschle said the Democratic emergency care amendment would have ensured that all 161 million privately insured Americans have access to emergency care. The measure would have ensured that patients in emergency situations would not be charged more for going to the closest emergency room and would have prevented insurers from denying coverage of ambulance costs for patients transported to an emergency room.

Republicans Reject More Health Care Options for Women

Daschle said he is also very disappointed that Senate Republicans blocked an amendment, sponsored by Daschle and several other Democrats, that would have allowed women in South Dakota and across the country to designate obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYN) as their primary care doctors. It also would have made sure that a woman cannot be prematurely discharged from a hospital after a mastectomy. "I'm disappointed our Republican colleagues do not recognize that women have unique health care needs," Daschle said. "Now, women often must get permission from their health plan to see an OB/GYN which can lead to delays and threaten their health. That is simply wrong."

Daschle said doctors and women have also complained that some insurance companies, in order to save money, force women to have masectomies on an outpatient basis without regard to that patient's condition. The amendment, which Republicans rejected, would have allowed the patient and her doctor to decide how long of a hospital stay is required after a masectomy, lumpectomy or lymph node dissection. "While advances in cancer treatment has meant shorter stays in the hospital for some women, it does not mean that insurance companies should make unilateral decisions for all women. Experts agree that hospital care remains critical to controlling pain and providing support and encouragement to women who have just undergone major surgery," Daschle said. "The decisions of the physicians in consultation with their patients should outweigh an insurance company's cost-saving measures. It is that simple."

Pressing to Allow Self-Employed to Deduct Health Costs

Daschle said the women's protection amendment also included a Democratic provision to allow self-employed Americans including millions of farmers and small business owners to fully deduct their health care costs. The cost of doing so was offset by cutting other federal expenditures, he said.

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