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Health Care

March 15, 1999

Dear Senator:

The National Partnership for Women & Families is devoted to improving the lives of women and families. A key priority for the National Partnership is to ensure that women enrolled in health insurance plans, particularly managed care plans, receive the highest quality care. We understand that the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is planning to mark up S. 326, the Senate leadership's version of the Patients' Bill of Rights Act, on March 17th. In its current form, this bill fails to provide essential patient protections for women and families.

First, S. 326 covers only a fraction of the people in this country with employment-based coverage and excludes more than 100 million Americans. Because most of its provisions apply only to the 48 million people in self-insured plans, this bill fails to provide basic protections to millions of Americans and exacerbates the ineffective patchwork system of protections already in place.

In addition to failing to protect millions of Americans, S. 326 is deficient in other ways. For example, S. 326:

  • Does not ensure that treatment decisions such as how long a patient stays in the hospital are made by the patient's doctor;
  • Does not hold managed care plans accountable when their decisions to withhold or limit care injure patients;
  • Does not ensure that patients undergoing a course of treatment (such as women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer) can continue to see the same health care professional when their employer switches plans;
  • Does not ensure access to appropriate specialists (inside or outside the network);
  • Does not prohibit plans from denying access to clinical trials;
  • Does not ensure that doctors and nurses can report quality problems without retaliation by HMOs, insurance companies, and hospitals; and
  • Does not ensure access to prescription drugs that are not on a plan's predetermined list when such drugs are needed.

S. 326 fails to provide urgently needed common sense patient protections to women and families. We urge you to oppose S. 326 and to support the real Patients' Bill of Rights -- S. 6 -- during the mark up.


Judith L. Lichtman


Copyright 1998,
National Partnership for Women & Families.