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AMA calls on Lott, Hastert, President to negotiate patients’ rights bill

For immediate release
June 14, 2000

CHICAGO – The chair of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees today called on Trent Lott, Majority Leader of the Senate, Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader of the House, and President Clinton to “begin meeting immediately to negotiate a real patients’ rights bill that can be signed into law.”

“Over 40 states have passed patient protection legislation on a bipartisan basis. Why can’t the U.S. Congress do the right thing?” asked AMA Board Chair D. Ted Lewers, M.D.

Speaking to 550 physician delegates at its Annual Meeting in Chicago, Dr. Lewers also called on the only physician member of the Senate, Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a leader of the opposition to the legislation, to “re-examine his role in the process.”

The AMA supports the Norwood-Dingell patients’ rights legislation that passed overwhelmingly by 275 votes in the House last fall. Last week, with Sen. Frist’s encouragement, the Senate tabled the same measure by 51-48.

“Senator Frist can be the difference in getting a bill signed into law this year,” Dr. Lewers said. “We are calling on Senator Frist to throw away the propaganda circulated by the insurance industry and take immediate action to give patients the rights that are supported by over 80 percent of the American public.”

Dr. Lewers also noted that the Norwood-Dingell legislation is similar to patient protections enacted in Texas. “The sky did not fall in on Texas,” he said. “If strong patient protections are good enough for Gov. Bush . . . they should be good enough for the U.S. Senate.”

With one Senate Democrat absent from last week’s vote, Dr. Lewers said the AMA is “just one vote away in the Senate from winning a historic victory for our patients.” Dr. Lewers praised the 45 Democratic senators and four Republicans who voted for the measure.

The AMA on Thursday, June 15, will run newspaper ads thanking the four Republican senators Lincoln Chafee (R – R.I.), Peter Fitzgerald (R – Ill.), John McCain (R – Ariz.) and Arlen Specter (R – Penn.).

Dr. Lewers said the AMA is working with local, state and specialty medical societies in Missouri, Michigan and Washington State – key states where Republican senators do not support a meaningful patients’ bill of rights. The AMA and other physician leaders will meet with the media, local physicians and patients in those states next week.

For more information, contact:
Mike Lynch
AMA Dept. of News and Information
(312) 464-4584
(Beeper 1-800-759-8352 pin # 1268976)

Last updated: Jun 19, 2000

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