October 4, 1999

New Data on Rise of Nation's Uninsured Should Put Dingell/Norwood Bill on the Shelf

WASHINGTON – With new Census Bureau data showing a significant rise in the number of Americans without health insurance, the U.S. House of Representatives needs to refrain from passing so-called patients' rights legislation that would make health coverage less accessible, the head of the Healthcare Leadership Council said today.

"When you've got fires burning, you don't pass legislation ordering the distribution of gasoline and lit matches," said HLC President Mary Grealy.  "When over 44 million people in this country don't have health insurance, the last thing Washington should be doing is passing a bill that even its sponsors admit will raise the cost of health care."

Ms. Grealy's comments came following news reports of new Census Bureau data showing the ranks of the nation's uninsured growing by about one million persons in 1998 to a total of 44.3 million.

"Every member of Congress should take a good look at that Census data.  It shows that the number of Americans receiving health insurance from their employers is actually significantly increasing," she said.  "So why in the world would Congress want to zero in on something that is going in the right direction and stop that positive momentum in its tracks?"

She added, "Make no mistake about it.  Employers have made their concerns about the Dingell-Norwood bill very clear.  If it passes, many small businesses across the country are going to stop providing health coverage to their employees.  If that happens, future Census studies are going to look far more grim than this one does."

Ms. Grealy said the Healthcare Leadership Council, made up of the chief executives of the nation's leading health care companies and institutions, will be devoting considerable time and resources over the coming months to finding solutions that will give Americans greater access to health coverage.

"In the meantime, let's not take giant steps backwards away from the goal of health coverage for all," she said.  "The Dingell-Norwood legislation will raise costs and increase the ranks of the uninsured.  This new Census data is a stop sign on the highway leading toward disastrous legislation.  It's time for Congress to apply the brakes."


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