The Senate voted to kill a provision in the Patient's Bill of Rights legislation that would have enabled patients to sue their health plans. The right to sue threatened to increase costs to small business owners and employees and would expose employers to greater liability.

The failed provision, which has been backed by the trial lawyer lobby and the White House, was defeated by a 53-47 margin. On Wednesday, the Senate voted down a provision that would have extended new federal mandates on HMOs, affecting 161 million Americans who already have coverage and threatening to exclude many more without coverage.

An amendment to the Patient's Bill of Rights legislation, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, calls for a new tax deduction for providing long-term care to the elderly and would establish new mandates for ER access and access to obstetricians and other specialists. Collins' measures would affect the 48 million Americans under federally regulated health plans.

President Clinton has announced his intention to veto the legislation that is emerging from this week's debate over health care reform. Clinton backs measures that would increase the costs of health care for small business owners and increase the numbers of uninsured.