CONTACTS: Frank Coleman/ Andrea Hofelich
(202) 463-5682/888-249-NEWS

Monday, April 26, 1999

U.S. Chamber: Patients' Bill of Rights Will Increase Uninsured Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today said instead of helping employees, the latest Kennedy-Dingell health care proposal will accelerate the crisis of 43 million uninsured Americans while increasing health care costs and lining lawyers’ pockets.

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, the "Patients’ Bill of Rights," sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), would result in a premium increase of 6.1% over five years. CBO also expected that businesses would have to deflect these higher costs by dropping health insurance entirely, offering fewer benefits, or passing the costs on to employees in the form of lower wages.

"Sadly, this bill does nothing to provide coverage for the 43 million uninsured Americans. In fact, it will only accelerate the true health care crisis in America," said Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber Executive Vice President.

A 1998 survey of Chamber members found that two out of three employers would drop coverage if a liability provision were imposed on their health plans. Additional studies have indicated that when health care costs increase, so does the number of uninsured, which has jumped from 38 million to 43 million over the past six years.

"This bill does not improve the quality of care and will only raise costs for businesses and threaten continued health coverage," said Josten. "It even encourages drawn-out litigation and punitive damage awards. What good is a patients’ bill of rights that doesn’t help patients, but lawyers?

"When employers could lose their entire business in a multi-million dollar judgment because they voluntarily offer health coverage, we would have no choice but to recommend that employers stop sponsoring a health plan.

"If bureaucrats really wanted to improve health coverage, they should do so by correcting tax code biases and providing full deductions and other tax incentives for all who purchase coverage – individuals, the self-employed and business owners," said Josten.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.