|WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Daschle said
today he will force Congress to debate the health care "Patients Bill of
Rights" immediately after passage of the federal budget because families
in South Dakota and across the country can no longer afford to have the
important measure blocked.
Daschle said he set the deadline for bringing up the patient protections because the measure has been continuously blocked since it was introduced by Democrats a year ago. He said if Republican leaders refuse to bring it up on its own, he will offer the bill as an amendment to legislation taken up after the budget passes in the coming weeks.
"During the past year, our Republicans colleagues have said repeatedly that they support empowering families who are denied medical treatment by their insurance companies. But they have repeatedly blocked us from offering it on the floor," Daschle said. "If they continue to do so, we will force debate on the legislation. Millions of families across the country have had their health insurance company interfere in the doctor-patient relationship by denying treatment or payment for something their doctor recommended. These patient protections are urgently needed now."
Daschle said 161 million Americans are covered by Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) or other managed care health plans, and many are hurt when their insurer is more interested in lowering costs than in providing quality health care.
The Patients' Bill of Rights Daschle wants to bring to the Senate floor would: • Guarantee patient access to needed medical specialists and to emergency room services; • Allow patients to appeal to an independent body a medical decision made by their HMO; • Hold health plans accountable for medical decisions that harm patients.
"How many more families will have needed medical care denied by a health care bureaucrat before Congress passes a Patients' Bill of Rights?" Daschle said. "The American people overwhelmingly support our bill and so do the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association -- and nearly 200 other major medical and consumer groups. Families in South Dakota and across the country have been kept in the waiting room long enough. This Congress should stop blocking it and enact the Patients' Bill of Rights."
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