MANAGED CARE REFORM -- (House of Representatives - June 24, 1999)

[Page: H4883]


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

   Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, at first it was campaign finance reform, then it was gun safety and school violence; now it is health care reform where we see an unfortunate recurring pattern taking place by our Republican leadership.

   Mr. Speaker, on issue after issue, the leadership uses its power to stomp out any real discussion on the House floor. Once again, those of us who care about patients' rights have no alternative, no alternative but to sign a discharge petition to force a discussion on managed care reform, because, my colleagues, serious proposals for meaningful health care reform have been rejected by the Republican leadership.

   Why? I am not sure, but it certainly looks like they are trying to protect the profits of the managed care industry. And that is protecting managed care industry's profits over the protection of all of our constituents, every single Member of the House of Representatives and the people we work for.

   While they claim reform would actually allow the Federal Government to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, our families are left unprotected.

   Democrats in Congress have been waiting 2 years to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights, because we are ready. We are ready to improve Americans' access to health care. On the other hand, the leadership in this Congress has taken their sham bill from last year, broken it into eight pieces, eight pieces that they want to sell this year as health care reform.

   Well, we have to be clear about this. There is no real change in their piecemeal approach. Their same refusal to protect doctors and patients from the insult of an insurance clerk's ability to dictate medical treatment procedures remains. The American Medical Association, in fact, says that their package falls short of the mark; says it does not solve any of the problems our doctors and patients have.

   It is time, Mr. Speaker, to put doctors and patients back in charge of our health care system. There must be enforceable rights to make consumer protections real for all Americans.

   Mr. Speaker, we know that many States have passed legislation making a patchwork of protections. This patchwork does not provide a good fix. This fix does not work for over 160 million Americans who need a real effort to fix the problems of managed care.

   While there are many top-notch managed care organizations, many in my own district; I represent Sonoma and Marin Counties in California, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge; in other areas, there are too many horror stories that we hear across this country. Doctors tell us horror stories about how they are gagged by insurance companies, companies that dictate what they can tell their patients, what they can tell their patients about their patients' treatment options. They tell us that a patient's treatment decisions are often overruled by a clerk, and that patients are denied a specialist's care, and that patients are shuttled out of hospitals before full recovery.

   Americans are demanding, they are demanding that this Congress take action and that we do it now. But instead, the Republican leadership has provided legislation that does not ensure that patients have the right to see a specialist, nor do they prevent insurance companies from continuing to send women who have had mastectomies home early, against the advice of their physician.

   Under the Republicans' bill, if patients are denied care, they would not have the right to a meaningful external appeal.

   That is why we need to debate managed care reform. That is why we need a Patients' Bill of Rights. This legislation will make sure that doctors and patients are free to make decisions about the patient's health. The Patients' Bill of Rights will ensure that patients can openly discuss with their doctors their treatment options. The Patients' Bill of Rights will ensure that patients receive uniform information about their health plan, and they will be able to go to emergency rooms when the need arises, see a specialist, and seek a remedy from the courts when the claims have been unfairly denied.

   It is time to put doctors and patients back in charge of our health care system. I urge my colleagues to support a full debate on managed care reform and support a Patients' Bill of Rights. I urge the Speaker and I urge my colleagues to give the American people what they want. I urge my colleagues to work for managed care reform.