Today's News

Sept. 14, 2000

Health care groups tell Congress: Pass patient rights legislation

By Craig Palmer

Washington Physicians, dentists and other health care and patient groups urge the U.S. Senate in new television ads "to get serious and pass a real patients' bill of rights" before Congress adjourns.


Advertisements begin airing September 14 in selected states with appeals to viewers of popular TV news and talk shows to lean on Senators running for re-election to vote for patient rights legislation before Congress adjourns next month for the fall elections. Legislation supported by the American Dental Association and American Medical Association among more than 60 health care and patient groups is stalled as Congress heads into its final weeks of business.

"U.S. Senate: Time is now for patients rights," says the TV ad unveiled at a Sept. 13 AMA news conference. "Call your Senator," the ad urges viewers as a toll-free "800" number appears on the screen.

The new ad campaign is supported by the AMA and a 67-organization Patient Access Coalition, whose members include the American Dental Association. The ads will appear initially in Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington state and the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

"We are within one vote of victory in the Senate," said AMA Board Chair D. Ted Lewers, M.D. "Time is running short and the Senate needs to put patients first and give them the protections they need and deserve. Today's ad is aimed at securing at least one extra vote. We'll keep the pressure up even into this election. It will be an election issue."

The American Dental Association separately pressed the Senate, in letters to each Senator, to cover freestanding dental plans in patient rights legislation. "Dental patients deserve the same recourse as medical patients when a plan improperly denies a claim, regardless of whether the denial occurs before or after the patient receives treatment," said Sept. 7 letters signed by ADA President Richard F. Mascola and Executive Director John S. Zapp.

"The patient bill of rights would eliminate the confusing patchwork of state rules, providing medical patients with the same baseline of protections against managed care abuses, regardless of where they live," the ADA officials said. "Dental patients should receive no less."

House-Senate negotiations on a compromise bill are stalled and the clock is running out on the 106th Congress, which is aiming for an Oct. 6 adjournment.

The chief sponsors of bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives last year say they have revised their measure to address the concerns of Senate members who oppose or support narrower patient rights legislation. But a draft of the compromise legislation came under immediate fire from business groups opposed to patient rights legislation. An employer group, The Business Roundtable, said the compromise bill gives employers "little protection" from health care lawsuits.

Document address: http://www.ada.org/prof/pubs/daily/0009/0914top.html