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AMA emphasizes patients' rights support to Denver Post

November 7, 2000
Letter to the Editor
Denver Post

To the Editor:

Your November 5 editorial ("Another Win for Trial Lawyers") neglected to mention that most Republicans, most Democrats and a full 87 percent of Americans support the AMA-endorsed Norwood-Dingell bill, a strong patients' bill of rights that includes the right to hold health plans accountable when they harm a patient.

Eighteen million Americans have had medical care delayed or denied since the Norwood-Dingell bill passed the House of Representatives in October of 1999. These are insured individuals who are not getting the care they deserve because the current leadership in Congress hasn't found the will to stand up to insurers and tell them that patient care must come before profits.

The AMA has consistently supported an independent, timely, external appeals process as key to a strong patients' bill of rights. The Norwood-Dingell bill, supported by the AMA and a majority in the House and Senate, would allow a health plan to require an independent review before the courts become involved. Nothing would please us more than to have a patients' bill of rights enacted and not have a single lawsuit filed. Our goal is assure that patients get the care they need and deserve when they need it period.

It's unfortunate that health plans need the threat of legal action to provide the care they've promised. But the truth is that every entity in our society can be held legally accountable when they harm another every entity except HMOs. You can sue your doctor, your dentist, your stockbroker, or your hairdresser. But through a fluke interpretation of current law, only HMOs have a special exemption from the accountability the rest of us must accept. Even George W. Bush knows this is wrong. Strong patients' rights legislation holding HMOs accountable became law under his watch in Texas -- where Bush has proudly proclaimed it a success.

You're right we don't think patients should have to settle for "half-a-loaf" when they've paid for a full loaf with their health insurance premiums. We look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to assure these strong, common sense patient protections are signed into law as soon as possible.

Randolph D. Smoak, Jr., MD
AMA President

Last updated: Nov 08, 2000

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