P R E S S    R E L E A S E

For Immediate Release
Contact: Melissa Merz
(202) 224-7028
June 16, 1999


Washington, D.C. Saying the Senate leadership continues to refuse to consider proposals most important to American families, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and other Democrats in calling for passage of the Patients' Bill of Rights in the next two weeks.

Speaking at a news conference, Durbin pointed to newly released figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showing the Patients' Bill of Rights would cost a typical worker less than $2 a month in increased premiums for the protections provided by the legislation. Employers would pay less than $5 for increased protections for their employees.

The Illinois senator added that while Republicans have introduced their own version of managed care reform, the GOP version leaves more than 100 million Americans including five million Illinoisans without important consumer protections addressed in the Democrats' legislation.

"When it comes to issues that matter to American families, this Congress has put too many proposals in storage," said Durbin, a member of the Democratic Leadership. "Whether it's the Patients' Bill of Rights, campaign finance reform or protecting Medicare, this Congress has refused to lead."

Durbin said one critical part of managed care reform was accountability. Unlike the GOP proposal, the Democratic legislation would allow patients in health plans to hold those plans accountable if they make decisions about patient care that result in injury or death.

Currently, most patients are prevented from suing their health plans for wrongdoing because of a federal law that prohibits lawsuits against employer-sponsored health insurance plans, which are regulated by the federal government. Some states have enacted legislation allowing lawsuits against insurance plans that are not sponsored by employers and are regulated by the state.

"Americans and their businesses know they can be held accountable when they do something wrong," Durbin said. "Health care providers who make life or death decisions should be no different. It's time managed care companies accept responsibility for their actions."

Among other provisions, the Democratic proposal also guarantees access to emergency services, access to specialty care and access to clinical trials. In addition, the measure prohibits plans from "gagging" doctors and provides an external appeals process.