Press Release

Thursday, October 7, 1999

Adrienne Hahn, (202) 462-6262
Consumers Union's Washington, DC Office





WASHINGTON, D.C. - Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, applauded the U.S House of Representatives today for siding with consumers by passing the Norwood/Dingell managed care reform bill. But the organization said it was extremely troubled by the so-called access legislation that lawmakers attached to the Norwood/Dingell bill, legislation that would undermine many of the protections contained in the bill.

"We are pleased that the House relented and passed the Norwood/Dingell bill, the only managed care reform legislation that ensures all Americans have access to quality care," said Adrienne Hahn, legislative counsel for Consumers Union.

The Norwood/Dingell bill, which passed by a vote of 275 to 151, contains liability provisions that guarantee managed care systems will be held fully accountable for negligent behavior that results in injury or death. These accountability provisions were far superior to other alternatives that the House debated, Ms. Hahn said. The Norwood/Dingell bill represented the most comprehensive and meaningful managed care reform bill before Congress. The bill extends patient protections to 161 million Americans with private health insurance coverage. It provides an external appeals process so that when an HMO makes a treatment decision an outside entity can review that determination to decide whether care was wrongfully terminated, denied or delayed.

Despite these important patient protections, Congress took a very dangerous step when it passed the so-called access bill that threatens traditional health insurance coverage. The new tax deductions for individuals, expanded medical savings accounts, HealthMarts and Association Health Plans will not lead to affordable health care. Tax deductions for individuals could make health insurance less affordable and less available to people with existing health conditions, since they actually undermine employer-provided coverage. Medical savings accounts could, over time, increase deductibles for all insured people, since they are expected to crowd-out of the market policies with deductibles in the range of $200 to $250. HealthMarts and Association Health Plans are untried and untested mechanisms that could undermine state efforts to broaden risk pools and provide people with comprehensive coverage.

Therefore, Consumers Union plans to urge congressional conferees to remove the "access" provisions from the bill, and either (1) limit the bill to the managed care consumer protections, or (2) substitute for these flawed "access" provisions steps that will make health coverage truly more affordable for Americans. CU will urge conferees to consider, for example, allowing people to buy-in to programs such as FEHBP, Medicare, and Medicaid; expanding coverage for parents of CHIP children; and tax credits that would cover the full cost of coverage for the poor (combined with comprehensive reforms of the individual market).


Consumers Union, Publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumers. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.

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