Republican and Democratic negotiators working on legislation to give patients more protections against HMOs have met with considerable friction in conference committee over whether patients should get expanded rights to sue health plans if they are hurt when denied care, AP reports said.

Republicans claim they are the only party at the negotiating table to make concessions in the deliberations, while the Democrats say they have offered some concessions to GOP concerns about giving the federal government more regulatory power over health plans at the expense of state patient protection laws.

If a deal isn't reached in the week following the Memorial Day, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. said the Democrats may give up on negotiations.

The Senate bill doesn't expand lawsuits and is heavily favored by Republicans. Many party members fear expanded lawsuit privileges will cause premiums to soar and prompt businesses to drop health plans for workers rather than face expensive lawsuits. Democrats say HMOs must be held legally accountable for their care decisions.