Copyright 2000 Phoenix Newspapers, Inc.
November 8, 2000 Wednesday, Final Chaser
SECTION: OPINIONS; Pg. EX15
LENGTH: 653 words
SHADEGG BILL A PIVOT POINT IN PATIENTS' RIGHTS ISSUE
BYLINE: ROBERT ROBB, The Arizona Republic
Aso-called Patients' Bill of
Rights has been one of the key national issues this election. Democrats
sought to ride perceived hostility toward HMOs to victory, while Republicans
tried to defuse the issue.
But in terms of actually getting something
done, Arizona Congressman John Shadegg is the House Republican's man in the
Shadegg's version of the bill has the greatest support among
House Republicans. It is the chief alternative to the more widely discussed
approach sponsored by liberal Democrat John Dingell, D-Mich., and Republican
dentist Charlie Norwood, R-Ga. This is the Dingell-Norwood bill that Al Gore, in
one of his smarty-pants moments during the debates, demanded to know whether
George W. Bush supported.
Both bills would enact a number of procedural
reforms, such as requiring that gynecologists and pediatricians be accepted as
primary care physicians, and forbidding restrictions on what doctors can advise.
But the major difference, and the issue on which progress has bogged
down, concerns the circumstances under which patients could sue their HMOs.
Dingell-Norwood allows full access to state courts virtually at any time.
Shadegg's bill would require that an independent medical panel review the case
and issue findings before a federal lawsuit would be permitted.
issue is now in conference committee. And even though Shadegg's alternative was
outvoted by Dingell-Norwood on the House floor, Shadegg is on the conference
committee and was named one of two chief negotiators by Speaker of the House
Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Shadegg also appeared with Hastert at a national press
conference last Thursday, where the Speaker said that he remained committed to
passing a Patients' Bill of Rights this session.
was more than a little political posturing in the Speaker's comments. The press
conference was intended to take the wind out of the sails of a Clinton press
conference later that day, in which the President was to denounce the lack of
progress on important national issues by congressional Republicans, including a
Patients' Bill of Rights.
But if something gets through
Congress this session, it will likely be primarily Shadegg's handiwork. It's
been an interesting odyssey and an unusual position for the philosophical
conservative, who was elected convincingly to his fourth term last night over
Shadegg, whose father was one of Barry Goldwater's
chief political advisers, is more frequently found outside the tent, organizing
to keep the Republican leadership from straying too far from conservative
principles. He cleaned up Newt Gingrich's mess at GOPAC, a conservative
political action committee. And he currently leads the 60 or so House members of
the occasionally cantankerous and always conservative Congressional Action Team.
You would ordinarily expect to find Shadegg among those questioning what
business it is of the federal government to be dictating the terms of employment
But Shadegg, an attorney by training, finds the notion of HMOs
being granted immunity by federal law from lawsuits holding them accountable for
their actions deeply offensive and unconservative. Ideally, he would like to
return health insurance regulation to the states, and increase the extent to
which people insure themselves rather than being locked into plans provided by
But, at least on this subject, Shadegg has decided to
weigh in on the art of the possible. Right now, that means trying to leverage
the American Medical Association, which Shadegg believes is shortchanging
doctors to maintain an alliance with trial lawyers and Democrats behind
Dingell-Norwood, whose passage in the litigation-averse Senate is highly
In an interview, Shadegg's passion to actually get something
done on this issue is palpable. The pivot may be a new position for Shadegg, but
it's clearly one he relishes.
November 30, 2000