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Friday, May 26, 2000

Kirsten Weeks, 202/986-2600

Women's Health Advocate Scolds Congress for Unfinished Business on Patients' Rights

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

Death by delay may be a political strategy for Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), but for patients it has a different meaning.

Members of the House and Senate vacated Capitol Hill this week for a 10-day break delaying action on patients’ rights legislation, yet again. Until Congress passes strong patient protections, HMOs can continue to base treatment decisions on financial, not medical, concerns. Until Congress acts, there is no penalty for HMOs when they wrongly refuse to pay for treatment that could save or improve a patient’s life. And, when a patient can appeal a damaging decision, there’s no federal law stopping the HMO from stacking the deck in its favor.

Sen. Don Nickles leads the committee charged with hammering out a final patients’ rights bill and told Americans the committee would finish its work by March, and then by April. However, his deadlines have passed with no results and little progress.

Americans deserve better from their elected officials and they’ve waited long enough. When Congress comes back on June 6, it should end this stalemate immediately and provide all Americans with a strong, enforceable patients’ bill of rights.


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