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ACEP Calls on Senate to Pass Patients' Rights Bill

Washington, DC The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), a medical specialty organization of more than 21,000 emergency physicians, today said they are disappointed by the lack of progress in the House-Senate Conference Committee. ACEP calls on the Senate to pass a meaningful patients' rights bill protections by including provisions that would require health maintenance organizations to cover emergency services for beneficiaries based upon the "prudent layperson" standard.

Dr. Michael T. Rapp, president of ACEP, made the following statement addressing these concerns:

"Emergency physicians are disappointed by the lack of progress in the House-Senate Conference Committee. The Senate has an historic opportunity to shape the delivery of health care for the next century. It can and should deliver real reform.

"Our nation's health care system too often pits cost and care in a cutthroat competition, with patients on the losing end. We need to hold managed care plans accountable for the care they deliver and the decisions they make. Whatever the outcome of the debate, Americans will be watching to see who stands for patients and who stands for profits.

"The Norwood-Dingell (H.R. 2723) patients' bill of rights will guarantee that every insured American who believes that he or she is suffering from an emergency medical condition has the right to seek emergency care from the nearest emergency department. No one should have to take precious time to call a health plan before seeking emergency care. This legislation eliminates prior authorization requirements for emergency care and addresses 'after-the-fact' claim denials that create barriers and can place a patient's health at serious risk.

"Care of a patient after his or her medical emergency has been stabilized often must be done in a timely manner to ensure that a medical condition or injury does not deteriorate or develop further medical complications. Emergency physicians seek to work closely with health plans to coordinate follow-up care, but are often frustrated because they are not able to reach health plans in a timely manner to discuss a patient's necessary treatment. The Norwood-Dingell legislation includes effective provisions for the coordination of a patient's post-stabilization care.

"ACEP continues to call on Congress to adopt the same national 'prudent layperson' standard for all Americans, as they did for Medicare and Medicaid patients in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and as the President did for all Federal employees. It is time for lawmakers to take a stand and be accountable."

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The American College of Emergency Physicians is a medical specialty society representing more than 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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