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Health Care


On March 18, 1999, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions completed its work on S. 326, the Senate leadership's version of a Patients' Bill of Rights. This bill fails to provide the patient protections that America's families need and deserve.

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 require plans to have an adequate network of providers;
  • Does not go far enough to ensure access to 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 give consumers access to an independent consumer assistance program to help them choose plans and get the services they need.

When presented with the opportunity to provide each of the consumer protections listed above, the Committee majority voted against amendments that would have added each of these protections.

Don't be fooled -- this is not a Patients' Bill of Rights. There is only one real Patients' Bill of Rights -- S. 6.



Copyright 1998,
National Partnership for Women & Families.