As Senate Opens Debate Patient Protections, Monday

Press Release
July 12, 1999

Daschle To Press For Effective "Patients’ Bill of Rights"
As Senate Opens Debate Patient Protections, Monday

Says Families & Doctors Should Make Medical Choices, Not Insurance Companies

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Daschle said American families and their doctors should decide what type of medical care they receive -- not their insurance companies -- as the Senate today opened a long-awaited debate on patient protections.

Daschle said that, for too long, Americans have been hurt when decisions about their medical care have been made by their insurance company or managed care plan instead of by themselves and their physician. He said he will push his "Patients' Bill of Rights" legislation on the floor this week to ensure basic protections for the 161 million Americans now in managed care plans.

"This whole debate comes down to the critically important question of who should make medical decisions – doctors, or insurance company accountants," Daschle said. "With the legislation we are debating today, we can make a real difference for millions of people who are in managed care plans. Now, we must ensure that whatever we pass provides patients with real protections and is not simply a placebo that leaves out millions of Americans."

Daschle said that a recent Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University survey reported that problems with managed care are growing and that Americans are increasingly worried about how their health plan will treat them. Based on those findings, in 1998 as many as 115 million Americans either had a problem with their health plan or knew someone who did, he said, and that number is significantly higher than it was in 1997.

Senate Debate A Victory for Families

Daschle, who has been pressing to pass a "Patients' Bill of Rights" for two years, said the fact that the Senate is even debating the measure is a victory for American families. Prior to the Fourth of July Congressional recess, Daschle finally won a commitment from Republican leaders to bring his bill to the floor after several weeks of having the debate blocked.

"When we first introduced our bill nearly two years ago, a lot of our Republican friends said we didn't need a Patients' Bill of Rights," Daschle said. "Today, they have a bill of their own. We consider that progress, but we still have big differences of opinion about what a Patients' Bill of Rights should do."

Daschle said his bill covers the 161 million Americans in managed care plans, and it allows health care professionals to make medical decisions about needed medical services and about whether a patient can see a health care specialist. At the same time, he said the Republican bill covers only 48 million people and lets insurance company accountants to make decisions about health care -- even when a doctor disagrees.

Daschle said meaningful legislation would ensure that:

  • Patients will have access to needed care;

  • Doctors are free to practice medicine without improper HMO and insurance company interference;

  • A health plan's decision to deny care can be appealed by patients to an independent review board; and

  • Health plans are held accountable for their medical decisions that lead to harm.
"Families in South Dakota and across the country need to know the piece of mind that comes from knowing that their health care will be there when they need it," Daschle said. "That's what we're trying to accomplish with my legislation, and it's what this debate is all about."

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