STATEMENT OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON
THE PATIENTS’ BILL OF
March 9, 2000
For Immediate Release
Contact: Jim Manley
I commend Chairman Nickles, the other members of the conference
committee, and the staffs of all the members for the progress we have made
so far. These initial discussions have been productive, and it's a good
sign that we have been able to reach agreement on three important
At the same time, it is critical that we speed up the pace of this
conference. We have reached agreement on only three out of more than 20
issues. Let's hope we can improve that record quickly.
Unfortunately, we have not yet even begun to discuss the most
contentious issues – assuring that all patients, not just some patients,
are protected, providing an effective and independent external appeal
process, and holding health plans accountable when they kill or injure
patients. These issues are especially critical, because rights without
effective remedies are no rights at all – and rights that don't protect
more than 100 million privately insured Americans are not acceptable.
Every day that goes by without action, more patients suffer. Whether
the issue is diagnostic tests or mental health, prescription drugs or
speciality care, or procedures that require a hospital stay instead of an
outpatient drive-by, real people are suffering so that insurance company
profits can grow. The abuses 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 in our hearts, all of us in Congress know it.
Senator Nickles has set a goal of reaching agreement this month. That
is the right goal. But we are going to have to do better to meet it.
Because of the Senate recess, the conferees will not be able to meet again
until the week after next, the last week of the month. At that time, the
staff should make recommendations about all the outstanding issues. In
particular, I hope that we can direct the staff to begin serious
discussions on the three critical issues of liability, appeals and scope,
at the same time they continue to work through the important specific
patient protections they have been discussing.
This Congress is facing many important challenges. But few are as
important to families as ending HMO abuses. After three years of
contentious debate, we are finally in the home stretch, ready to actually
pass a strong, effective program that meets the need. The House has
already passed such a proposal by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority.
It's up to this conference to finish the job.