Patients’ Bill of Rights
President Clinton looks to AFSCME for support
The Patients’ Bill of Rights died in a blaze of partisanship
before Congress adjourned for the November elections. But President
Clinton, vowing not to give up, has turned to AFSCME and other
groups represented on the White House advisory commission on health
care protections to help resurrect the important legislation in the
next congressional session.
On Nov. 2, the day before the congressional elections, Clinton
invited to a White House conference special guests: AFSCME Pres.
Gerald W. McEntee, Sec.-Treas. William Lucy and Dr. Robert Weinmann,
president of the Union of American Physi-cians and Dentists/AFSCME
in California. There Clinton announced that he remains committed to
the passage of consumer health protections.
The President chastised Republicans for refusing to act on the
health care legislation, saying it was a “cynical” display of
partisanship. “Health care protections are not a partisan issue in
any community in America outside of Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Speaking to the need for patient protections, Weinmann gave a
personal example of how managed care is endangering patients: A
woman went to him with a severe headache, which he believed was
symptomatic of a serious problem requiring immediate
hospitalization. Because the woman feared she would not be admitted
under her HMO’s rules, Weinmann stayed with her until the HMO had
approved her care and she was safe in a hospital bed. He didn’t know
until later that her HMO reversed itself, forcing her to get up and
go to another hospital for care.
Once there, the woman again was turned away because the HMO again
changed its mind. With nowhere to turn, the woman took her treatment
into her own hands, “at a high risk to herself,” according to
Weinmann. Fortunately, she survived.
Following Weinmann’s presentation, Frances Jennings of Andover,
Mass., told how months of treatment delays and bungled bureaucratic
decision-making by an HMO resulted in the death of her
Clinton noted that these “are not exceptional stories,” that
there are “too many stories where loved ones are lost through denial
or delay,” in today’s managed health care environment.
The President made it clear that he believes managed care can
help to contain costs and deliver quality care, but that laws need
to be changed to hold health care providers accountable when they
The Patients’ Bill of Rights includes provisions to:
- ensure that medical decisions are made by doctors;
- give patients access to specialists and emergency room
- keep patients’ medical information private;
- ensure that doctors, nurses and other health care workers can
advocate for their patients and raise quality concerns without
fear of retaliation;
- ensure that patients are not forced to change doctors in the
middle of treatment; and
- ensure HMO accountability by making it possible for patients
to sue an HMO when they are harmed.
Clinton announced that through executive action he has extended
these patients’ rights to federal government workers and to all
those who receive their health care through federally funded
programs. “Not covered, however,” he emphasized, “are the remaining
160 million people enrolled in managed care plans” who need Congress
to pass legislation necessary to extend those rights.
By Catherine Barnett