Home Page e-mail Search


AHA Public Advocacy

News Releases/Statements and Testimony/Regulatory Comments

For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Bolton/Kelly Kennai
American Heart Association News Release

American Heart Association urges Congress to pass Patients' Bill of Rights

Washington, Sept. 13 - The American Heart Association today urged Congress to pass a meaningful "Patients' Bill of Rights" which would provide patients with real protections, including unhindered access to emergency care and access to specialty care.

"This Congress has a real opportunity to write its own prescription for America's health by passing comprehensive legislation that re-empowers patients and guarantees their right to see the medical professionals they want and receive the health care they need," said Rose Marie Robertson, president of the association.

"We are making great progress in devising new treatments, discovering new drugs and pioneering new procedures which can help save tens of thousands of the lives lost to cardiovascular disease each year." Robertson said. "But the promise of advances in medical science won't mean much to the patient who faces bureaucratic and financial barriers that limit access to appropriate health care."

Robertson urged Congress to pass patients' rights legislation that provides a strong "prudent layperson" standard for emergency care, meaning that if a non-medical, lay person believes he or she is having a medical emergency, then it must be treated as a medical emergency by insurers. This standard would prevent delays in emergency care caused by the need for pre-approval of emergency treatment and it would eliminate the fear of non-payment for emergency care. "Without this protection," Robertson said, "patients are afraid that they will be left with an enormous hospital bill if they promptly seek emergency care for chest pain, or for a severe headache, numbness, weakness or dizziness or other symptoms suggestive of stroke, and are fortunate enough that the symptoms are due to some less serious problem. That fear means that people die whose lives could have been saved."

Congress must also protect the patient's right to choose. Patient protection legislation must give patients the right to choose the health care providers and services they require if their current health plans and provider networks can't meet the patient's needs.

The American Heart Association spent about $327 million during fiscal year 1998-1999 on research support, public and professional education, and community programs. With more than three million volunteers, the American Heart Association is the largest voluntary health organization fighting heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases which annually kill more than 950,000 Americans.

# # #

2000 American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited.

The information contained in this American Heart Association (AHA) Web site is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the AHA recommends consultation with your doctor or health care professional.