|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:|
March 17, 1999
|CONTACT: Mona Miller|
Mr. Chairman, I am here today with much hope, hope that this committee can
roll up its sleeves and work together to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights with
meaningful reform to provide Marylanders and all Americans with better health
care access and quality. I am a proud cosponsor of S. 6, the Democratic
Patients' Bill of Rights because it puts patients first, not profits.
Last year, the Republican majority refused to bring this bill to a vote. The
American people have had to wait a whole year for us to begin to solve the
problem of managed care. Americans should not be forced to wait for some of the
most basic, common sense protections in their health care!
I believe that one of my most important responsibilities here in the Senate
is to meet the day-to-day needs of the American people. One of those needs is
the right to quality health care. We all have heard the horror stories about
regular Americans who are denied medically necessary treatments because large
HMOs want to increase their profits. It is appalling that in the U.S. -- where
we have the best medical services in the world -- Americans are being denied the
treatment they need; treatment that is readily available. I shudder to think how
many more of these stories will occur before we pass legislation that will
correct these problems.
Let me tell you what my principles will be for any HMO reform bill:
The Democratic Patients' Bill of Rights meets those essential criteria. It addresses the five areas of health care that need reform:
I have heard from many Marylanders who have had problems with their health
insurance or HMO. Whether it was claims or care denied or endless bureaucratic
runarounds, the American people call on us to act. They know that when
life-or-death health care decisions become simple dollars-and-cents business
decisions, America's health care system is in big trouble.
The Democratic Patients' Bill of Rights would ensure that Americans would be
able to make informed decisions about their health care. By enacting this
legislation, the American people would be able to have the information they need
to understand how health plans differ; know all of their treatment options, not
just the cheapest one; have access to emergency care in any situation that a
"prudent lay person" would regard as an emergency; use primary care physicians
when indicated and specialists when needed; and women would be able to choose
their OB/GYN as a primary care provider. In addition, decisions would be made by
doctors based on patients' best interest and scientific knowledge instead of
cost effective analysis, and doctors would be able to make referrals to
specialists based on medical necessity instead of stock holders' priority. In
other words, under this bill, health care decisions would be made by patients
and their health care providers and not by an anonymous person sitting behind
the desk at a managed care organization.
I am proud that my state of Maryland has been on the forefront of this issue,
having already enacted some of the changes that are part of the Democratic
Patients' Bill of Rights, such as improved emergency room access, access for
women to OB/GYN care as primary care, and anti-gag rules. And just this year,
the state is implementing a grievance and appeal process.
Additional efforts to protect the rights of Maryland's managed care patients
are under way. These proposals include: giving Marylanders more access to
specialists when they need them, providing more access to the life-saving drugs
that their doctor thinks are necessary, saying "NO" to booting people out of the
hospital following a mastectomy or testicular cancer surgery, and allowing
patients to sue their HMOs for sub-par care.
Yet, Marylanders would also have benefited enormously from many of the
improvements in the Democratic Patients' Bill of Rights. But everyone deserves
these protections regardless of where they live and what kind of insurance they
I hope that we can work together to pass meaningful managed care reform to
improve the quality of health care for all Americans. I am ready to work with my
colleagues on both sides of the aisle to accomplish this. Thank you.