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Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Kirsten Weeks, 202/986-2600


Statement by Judith L. Lichtman, President
National Partnership for Women & Families

Itís been seven months since the House passed patientsí rights legislation, yet managed care conferees are still a long way from sending a strong patient protection bill to the President. Conference leader Sen. Nicklesí (R-OK) April deadline came and went without a resolution. And in the meantime, Americans continue to suffer in the absence of protections they need and deserve.

Conferees havenít even addressed two of the debateís most important issues -- scope and accountability. Do we hold health plans accountable when they harm a patient as we do every other industry? Are all insured Americans entitled to strong patient protections, or should we exclude millions without access to the Aright@group health plans?

Without reaching and resolving these issues correctly, a patientsí rights bill wonít be worth a dollar bill. House members Charlie Norwood and John Dingell got it right. Their bill provides legal accountability for HMOs and doesnít exclude millions of firefighters, teachers, church employees and others who are not enrolled in the Aright@ kind of plan.

To restore confidence in our health care system and prevent needless harm, the conferees must get moving. We are pleased the President has invited the conferees to the White House for a meeting early next week, and we hope that meeting will give this process the jump start it needs.


The National Partnership for Women & Families (formerly the Womenís Legal Defense Fund) is leading a coalition of patient and provider groups that support strong, enforceable patient protections. The National Partnership is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes fairness in the workplace, quality health care, and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.


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National Partnership for Women & Families.