FOR MEMORIAL DAY RECESS
To the Editor:
As a [nurse] in [this community], I know how badly patients need strong patient protections and I find Congressí lack of progress on the patientsí bill of rights inexcusable. Members of the House and Senate left Capitol Hill last week for a 10-day break without reaching a long-overdue resolution on this important piece of legislation. Despite Americansí demands for Congress to act quickly to produce strong patient protection legislation, the patientsí bill of rights is languishing in a Congressional stalemate.
Eight months ago, the House passed a strong bi-partisan version of the patientsí bill of rights. The House bill contained basic patient protections, like the right to hold health plans accountable if they harm a patient and access to an independent appeals process. Congressional leaders directed members from both chambers to reconcile the House bill with a previously passed, but considerably weaker, Senate bill.
Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), who chairs the committee charged with hammering out a final bill, told the American people the committee would finish its work by April. But, his deadline passed without results and very little progress. Huge differences remain. Among those are who the protections should cover and how to hold health plans accountable.
The Senate bill would exclude millions of people in certain types of health plans, like fire fighters, teachers and church employees, from almost all patient protections. Under their version of the bill, people who arenít in the "right" kind of health plan would not be eligible for basic protections. The Senate plan also would leave patients with no legal recourse against HMOs when they harm a patient.
House members have demonstrated better judgment. They are calling for patient protections to cover all insured Americans and to allow patients to hold health plans accountable when they do harm, like we do every other industry in the country.
These differences are not irreconcilable, and the conferees need to get serious about working them out. For every day they fail to produce patient protection legislation, thousands of patients experience unnecessary pain and suffering.
This delay is intolerable. With so few legislative work days left in this Congress, the longer this process drags on, the less likely Americans will get the protections they need.
Congress should answer the people of [community or state] and act immediately to end this stalemate. They owe it to Americaís patients to get to work and send a strong patientsí bill of rights to the President.
Don't forget TAKE ACTION! Let your Senators and member of Congress know you want real patient protections!
National Partnership for Women & Families.