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ACEP Applauds President's Call For a Bill of Rights for Patients in His State of the Union Address

Washington, DC -- The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), a medical specialty organization of nearly 21,000 emergency physicians, today applauded the President's call for national patient protection legislation in his State of the Union Address.  In response to the President's remarks, ACEP urged Congress to enact a bill of rights for patients that includes a national "prudent layperson" standard for all Americans and to address the growing national crisis of the uninsured.

"ACEP strongly supports the President's call for passage of a bill of rights for patients, especially provisions that protect a person's access to emergency care," said Michael T. Rapp, MD, president of ACEP.  "The President has asked for bipartisan support to enact legislation to protect quality of care and to prevent the growing number of people who are being denied coverage by their managed care plans.  It is imperative that hard-working Americans who pay for their health insurance be afforded the same emergency care protections that Congress enacted for people enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid health plans and the President applied to federal employees by executive order."

The prudent layperson standard requires health plans to cover emergency services based on a patient's presenting symptoms rather than his or her final diagnosis.  The standard further prohibits health plans from requiring patients to obtain prior authorization before seeking emergency care.    

Dr. Rapp also applauded the President's focus on addressing the 43 million people who are uninsured, a growing national crisis.  "As America's health care safety net, emergency departments are seeing more and more people who are uninsured," said Dr. Rapp.  "To address this problem as it relates to emergency medicine, I have appointed a Task Force on Health Care and the Uninsured.  The task force will plan a national conference and focus on developing strategic direction that will contribute to the national debate."   

Dr. Rapp appointed Charlotte Yeh, MD, of Boston, Massachusetts, to chair the task force.  Dr. Yeh is an emergency physician and medical director of Medicare Policy for the National Heritage Insurance Company.  

"I'm delighted that Dr. Yeh has agreed to serve as chair of this important effort," said Dr. Rapp.  "As an emergency physician for more than 25 years, having served in numerous leadership roles in the specialty of emergency medicine, Dr. Yeh has expertise on many national health care issues, including the uninsured, health care access, and EMTALA."

For the past 4  years, ACEP has led the fight to establish the "prudent layperson" definition of emergency as the national standard for coverage of emergency services and fought to eliminate restrictive prior authorization requirements.  The legislation passed last year by the U.S. House of Representative would establish this standard and protect approximately 161 million Americans with health insurance, unlike the legislation passed by the Senate, which does not include the entire standard and only covers 48 million patients enrolled in self-insured plans.  

The American College of Emergency Physicians is a medical specialty society representing nearly 21,000 physicians who specialize in emergency medicine.  ACEP is dedicated to improving emergency care through continuing education, research, and public education.  Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state as well as Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Government Services.

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