STATEMENT OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY AT THE
WHITE HOUSE PRESS
CONFERENCE ON THE PATIENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS
March 2, 2000
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jim Manley
At its most basic level, the decision before the conference is whether
critical medical decisions will be made by doctors and patients, or
insurance company accountants. It is time to protect families against HMO
abuses that can rob average citizens of their savings and their peace of
mind, and often their health and their very lives.
Every day, more patients suffer and die because of these abuses.
According to a survey of patients by the University of California at
Berkeley, every day across the country, 35,000 patients have their access
to needed care delayed -- 31,000 patients are forced to change doctors --
18,000 patients are forced to go without medications ordered by their
doctor -- 35,000 patients will face delays in specialty care, or will be
denied that care altogether -- 59,000 patients will endure unnecessary
pain and suffering as the result of the actions--or inactions--of their
health plan. Physicians report similar patterns of widespread abuses that
bring pain and suffering–and even death–to large numbers of patients.
Abuses like these that take place every day should have no place in
American medicine. Every doctor knows it. Every nurse knows it. Every
patient knows it. And the American people know it. Congress should act
promptly to pass strong and effective legislation to end this shameful
One of the most critical decisions we face is who will be covered. The
Senate bill excludes more than two-thirds of privately insured Americans
from most of its protections–and it leaves out almost every citizen who
belongs to an HMO. Our goal is to end HMO abuses -- yet the Senate bill
does nothing to remedy HMO abuses. No American should be denied access to
an emergency room by an HMO. No children should be denied a qualified
specialist to treat their congenital heart disease. No woman with breast
cancer should be denied participation in the clinical trial that can save
her life because she works for a small company instead of a large one.
Policemen and firefighters and teachers should not be condemned to managed
care abuses because they work for local governments instead of private
The bipartisan House-passed Norwood-Dingell bill is an effective answer
to these abuses. It protects every American. It has been endorsed by over
300 organizations of patients, doctors, nurses, and other health care
professionals, as well as organizations representing children, women, and
families. It provides a solid basis for bipartisan agreement in this
conference. We are open to negotiation, to compromise, to
clarification–but the Norwood-Dingell bill is the right benchmark against
which to measure any final legislation.
The American people deserve action. This conference owes it to every
family and every patient to produce bipartisan legislation that will give
them the protection they deserve.