Thursday, Congress moved closer to completing the Patient Rights bill after meeting with President Clinton. Congressional committee leaders met to report on the progress of negotiations for legislation that would grant patients certain rights when dealing with HMOs and other health plans.

According to AP reports, committee members had agreed on a crucial provision that would allow patients to appeal denials of health care coverage to an independent panel that would have the power to override health plan decisions if it deemed care was medically necessary.

A Republican-crafted bill in the Senate would cover 55 million Americans whose health plans are not regulated by states and does not expand the right for patients to sue. Republicans also support expansion of medical savings accounts, tax deductions and other measures aimed at increasing health care coverage. The House passed version, which is favored by President Clinton, would cover 161 million Americans with private insurance and expand patients' right to sue.