PUTTING PATIENTS BEFORE PROFITS -- (House of Representatives - March 23, 1999)

[Page: H1570]


   The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. CAPPS) is recognized for 5 minutes.

   Mrs. CAPPS. Mr. Speaker, since arriving in Congress over a year ago, I have been fighting for a real Patients' Bill of Rights. I am an original cosponsor of this landmark legislation to rein in health maintenance organizations, the HMOs, and to return decision-making power to patients and their doctors. I am committed to seeing that Congress take decisive action and pass this bill now.

   The only way to make comprehensive HMO reform a reality is to work together in a bipartisan way. That is why I was so disappointed last July when powerful special interests overpowered patients and blocked efforts to bring such a comprehensive HMO reform bill to the floor. Instead, they rammed through a Band-Aid that would have done nothing to actually protect patients. Our health care system needs serious medicine, not a political placebo.

   The American people deserve better.

   As a nurse, I know firsthand the importance of health care that is accessible, of high quality, patient-centered health care. Basic patients' rights can often mean the difference between life and death.

   As a Member of Congress, I was recently appointed to the House Committee on Commerce which oversees much of our Nation's health policy. If we are to accomplish anything in the field of health care, passing comprehensive managed care reform must be at the top of our agenda this session of Congress.

   Medical decisions need to be made by patients and their doctors, and patients should have all of the information they need to make these critical decisions. These are the plain truths about health care.

   Mr. Speaker, this historic measure will guarantee patients basic rights by allowing people to choose their own doctors, ending oppressive gag rules so patients have access to all critical treatment options and establishing health care quality and information standards which we can all follow. Most importantly, this bill will hold HMOs accountable by giving patients critical legal recourse when insurance companies deny necessary medical coverage. If patients can sue their doctors for poor care, they should be able to sue the big insurance bureaucrats who determine these cost-cutting decisions.

   Mr. Speaker, last weekend I was privileged to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle at the bipartisan retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania. There people of many different philosophical political backgrounds talked about the need to restore civility to government and make our constituents proud. In the spirit of Hershey, I sincerely hope that all of our colleagues will work together to pass in this session a real Patients' Bill of Rights. By putting patients before profits, we can be a Congress that does something real and finally passes comprehensive managed care reform legislation now while we have the opportunity before it is too late.