Copyright 1999 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
July 15, 1999, Thursday, FIVE STAR LIFT
SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A1
LENGTH: 803 words
GOP OFFERS COMPROMISES ON PATIENT RIGHTS;
MEASURES INCLUDE "TIMELY"
SPECIALIST CARE, WOMEN'S HEALTH OPTIONS
Meckler; The Associated Press
Senate Republicans, battling
Democrats over patient rights, on Wednesday offered a series of modest
alternatives on women's health, access to specialists, emergency room care and
other popular proposals.
Holding firm for a second day, only a handful
of Republicans have defected in a series of votes on the details of new patient
protections. That's partly because Republicans answered -- or promised to answer
-- popular Democratic proposals.
"That's why people are sticking
together, because they know we are going to deliver on the substance," said Sen.
Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a surgeon who is helping to lead the GOP effort.
Republicans defeated, 53-47, a Democratic plan to require insurance
companies to pay for needed specialists even if the specialists are outside a
health plan's network. Republicans promised their own version, which would
require "timely" specialist care, but would not give patients the right to go
outside a network.
Also, a day after defeating a Democratic measure on
women's health, the Senate approved a GOP measure requiring health insurance
companies to pay for overnight hospital stays when women are treated for breast
cancer, if a doctor recommends it.
While Democrats support that idea,
all 45 of them voted no because the GOP version eliminated a Democratic
amendment that would have allowed easier access to experimental treatments.
Democrats tried to get the Senate to include both provisions, but
Republicans refused. Instead, Republicans promised to produce their own
amendment on experimental treatments by today.
"We'll deliver," Frist
said, promising to fold some "very good" Democratic ideas into the final GOP
Meanwhile, Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., was working with a handful of
Democrats to fashion a compromise that incorporates much of what Democrats want.
His spokesman, Nicholas Graham, said Chafee had four Republicans on board and
would need just one more to reach 50 votes if all 45 Democrats went along.
On an issue that sharply divides the parties, the Senate refused to
extend new HMO rules to all 161 million people with private health insurance on
Wednesday. The 52-48 vote meant many of the provisions would apply only to the
48 million Americans whose health plans fell outside state regulation because
their employers provide insurance plans that are federally regulated.
Missouri Sens. Christopher "Kit" Bond and John Ashcroft and Illinois
Sen. Peter Fitzgerald -- all Republicans -- voted against the measure. Sen. Dick
Durbin, D-Ill., voted to apply the protections to more people.
major issue yet to be considered is the right to sue. Democrats want to give
patients who are denied care the power to take their health plans to court. That
issue was set for debate today, when the Senate will take a final vote on the
In the end, the Senate is likely to approve the Republican
plan, which President Bill Clinton has signaled he will veto.
Democrats and Republicans have legislation offering new federal rights for
Americans in health maintenance organizations and other managed care plans. But
the GOP plan is more modest than the Democratic bill on virtually every issue.
Many of the Republican proposals were first introduced Wednesday, after
the GOP voted down the Democrats' version.
On emergency room care, Republicans agreed that insurance companies should pay
for care during an emergency -- and after a patient is medically stable, a
retreat from their opening position. But Democrats said the plan had too many
* On women's health, Democrats would allow women to designate
gynecologists as their primary care doctors; Republicans would not. But the GOP
came closer to Democrats by allowing pregnant women to see obstetricians without
Who is covered is among the most fundamental questions
being debated this week, clearly demonstrating each party's approach to the role
Democrats say the new rights must apply
"The role of the federal government is to step in when
protections need to be everywhere in this country," said Health and Human
Services Secretary Donna Shalala.
But Republicans did extend some of
their provisions beyond the core 48 million people. The breast cancer amendment,
for instance, covers about 140 million people.
No Democrat has voted
with Republicans during this week's debate, and only a handful of Republicans
have voted with Democrats.
Those siding with Democrats at least once
were GOP Sens. Spencer Abraham of Michigan, John Chafee of Rhode Island,
Fitzgerald of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania
and John Warner of Virginia.
Chafee's spokesman said Fitzgerald, McCain
and Specter were willing to support a compromise.
GRAPHIC: Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS - Rep. Charles
Norwood, R-Ga. (right), with Rep. John Cooksey, R-La. (left), and American
Medical Association President Ted Riordan, briefs reporters on Capitol Hill on
Wednesday on the patients bill of rights.
LOAD-DATE: July 15, 1999