Ocean City, Maryland
September 10, 2000
F. Corlin, MD
Patients’ Bill of Rights
Let me bring you up to date on the progress of the
patients’ bill of rights.
Twice this year, a narrow majority in Senate voted to block
passage of a patients’ bill of rights that would protect our
patients from HMO and managed care abuses.
Instead, Senate, with one-vote margin, passed legislation
that claims to protect patients – but seems to be more of an
HMO Protection Act.
Still time, for this Senate to give patients the
protections they deserve.
All we need is a single Republican senator to provide one
vote necessary to enact a real patients’ bill of rights.
House of Representatives has passed a real patients bill of
rights by an overwhelming – bipartisan – majority.
But House-Senate conference committee charged with
reconciling differences between the two bills experienced the
partisan gridlock we’ve come to expect from Washington.
Meanwhile, the public wonders why the Senate has failed to
pass the same patient protections that are supported by 81
percent of registered voters – Democrats, Republicans and
The real answer: Big insurance and its deep pockets.
Big insurance spent more than $100 million to kill
patients’ rights legislation.
Our patients today are not getting their money’s worth from
their health insurance premiums.
Wall Street rewarding those highly paid insurance
executives for withholding medical services.
Senate just one vote away from a meaningful patients’ bill
A bill that will:
- Allow physicians – not insurance company bean counters –
to make medical decisions.
- Give patients an independent, timely appeals process if
care is delayed or denied.
- And hold health plans accountable when they make
decisions that harm patients.
Passage of a patients’ bill of rights will help restore
public confidence in our health care system.
Will demonstrate that Congress can actually legislate --
and not just debate -- health care issues.
Bill would also free up policy-makers in the next
Administration and the 107th Congress to devote greater
attention to such issues as covering the uninsured, Medicare
reform and prescription drug coverage.
All that will take is for one senator to step forward and
In the last few weeks the AMA’s National House Call in
Tennessee, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Michigan -- putting
pressure on senators in those states to help pass a meaningful
Patients’ Bill of Rights.
A bill to both protect patients – and hold insurance firms
In the remaining days of the 106th Congress – no matter
what happens --the AMA will remain focused – disciplined – and
Hope you will stay the course with us.
As your Senators Mikulski and Sarabanes well know – not a
Republican issue or a Democratic issue – but a patient issue
with enormous bipartisan support in the House.
Still time for this Senate – for this Congress – to give
patients the protections they deserve.
Bliley Bill / NPDB
Speaking of patient protections, it’s outrageous that Rep.
Thomas J. Bliley (R, Va.) has co-opted that term to name his
legislation to open the confidential National Practitioner
Data Bank to the public.
By introducing the so-called Patient Protection Act of
2000, Rep. Bliley is trying to distract physicians’ attention
from the Patients’ Bill of Rights effort at this critical
We need to send a clear message to Rep. Bliley: We will not
be distracted from our all-out efforts to pass a patients’
bill of rights and put an end to managed care abuses.
Safeguarding the millions of patients in our health care
system is one of the AMA’s highest priorities.
The best approach to meet patients’ needs for physician
information is to perfect state-based systems already in
place. There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel.
States are at the forefront of providing patients with
relevant information on health care providers – and the state
medical boards have full access to the information in the
national data bank.
Experts -- including the Institute of Medicine -- that have
studied ways to improve the quality and safety of health care
have concluded that simply opening the National Practitioner
Data Bank and disseminating this legal data would not help
Congress didn’t design the National Practitioner Data Bank
to provide patient information.
The NPDB doesn’t contain information about the overall
qualifications of physicians and other health care providers.
The well-balanced and complete information that states are
working to give patients stands in stark contrast to the
federal data bank – which contains mostly reports of legal
settlements that are not an indicator of physician quality or
Most physicians have malpractice claims on their records –
this doesn’t mean they are bad physicians.
In fact, a New England Journal of Medicine study
indicates that only about 1 in 5 settlements results from
negligent medical care.
The AMA is urging Congress to assist with efforts being
made by state licensing boards – where real progress is being
made toward getting patients the information they need.
We found broad bipartisan support in Washington for the
Campbell bill, H.R. 1304, the Quality Health-Care Coalition
Act of 2000.
The House of Representatives approved the Campbell bill by
a wide margin – voting to allow collective bargaining by
Since 1994, there have been 275 mergers and acquisitions of
health plans. Now, just seven powerful plans – and the Blues –
control the cost, access and quality of care for more insured
We all know that these powerful health plans intimidate and
threaten physicians with antitrust violations in order to bar
them from talking to one another – and to insurers – about
We need legislation at the federal level to offset the
enormous advantage insurance companies have in dictating terms
– dictating what the underwriters think is appropriate patient
care – and appropriate levels of quality.
Utah physician leaders recently met with Senator Orrin
Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator
Hatch acknowledged that there is a problem, but believes the
Campbell Bill goes too far.
While there may not be enough time left in this session for
the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings, Senator Hatch
has agreed to work with us on addressing the antitrust issue
in the next Congress.
This Congress will end in October, when our legislators
return home for the November elections.
So, act now in urging Senators Mikulski and Sarabanes to
support a Senate version of H.R. 1304 in order to level the
playing field for physicians against the giant insurance
Concerning the drive to have Medicare fund patient
prescriptions – we physicians understand how important it is
for our patients to have their medications.
But we think this must be brought about in a fiscally
Any proposed Medicare outpatient prescription drug benefit
should be funded separately from Parts A and B of Medicare.
Requiring a new infusion of dollars into the Medicare
program -- something that is certainly possible in this era of
But this benefit should be targeted to reduce hardship for
those who need it – those whose incomes aren’t adequate to
cover it and those with catastrophic drug costs.
We will be following the political debates that take place
on the issue of Medicare prescription benefits.
And carving out a position based on for what’s best for our
patients – and for the profession.
Health care high on the public’s political agenda – and
we’re seeing the candidates respond.
Critical election ahead – control not only of the White
House, but House of Representatives and several competitive
Senate races as well -- that could influence the future of
American medicine’s legislative agenda.
Organized medicine has the right – and the responsibility –
to advocate for our patients – and our profession.
The AMA is there for you in Washington – and working with
our partners in the Federation in the states.
To ensure that American medicine remains the greatest in
We appreciate your help and partnership – and so do the
patients of America.