July 21, 1999
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Teamsters Update on Congress


SENATE PASSES PATIENTS'
BILL OF RIGHTS "LITE"

Voting mostly along party lines, the Senate passed a watered-down version of legislation that applies some patient protections to only 48 million people in self-funded plans. It does not help 113 million people who get their health insurance from their employers or buy it on their own. Several Democratic amendments that would have provided stronger protections for patients of HMOs were defeated, including one allowing doctors, not health plan officials, to determine whether a treatment is medically necessary. Also defeated were amendments to allow women the right to use obstetricians and gynecologists as their primary doctors and to prohibit limits on the length of a hospital stay after breast cancer surgery. While the Republican proposal guarantees that patients can visit medical specialists on a timely basis, plans can require that specialty care first be approved by the patient's primary physician, leaving patients at the mercy of their HMO. President Clinton has promised to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO SAN JOSE? OR COLUMBUS, OHIO, OR CASPER, WYOMING?

That's what Mexican truck drivers seem to be asking. A recent review of Mexican carriers traveling outside of the currently permitted commercial zones by the Inspector General (IG) of the Department Transportation (DOT) found 68 Mexican companies operating illegally in 24 states, as far north as North Dakota and Wyoming and as far east as New York and Florida. In a recent letter to DOT Secretary Rodney Slater, General President Jim Hoffa demanded that a full scale IG investigation be launched to determine the real scope of this illegal activity and for DOT to revoke the operating authority of these Mexican carriers caught outside the commercial zones and bar them from entry into the U.S. If you see a Mexican truck operating outside the commercial zones, call the Government Affairs office at (202) 624-8741 with the name of the carrier, the date, time and place, and we'll pass it on to the IG's office.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

The Federal Highway Administration's Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) which regulates truck, bus and commercial driver safety has recently come under fire for being too cozy to the trucking industry.

An investigation by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General into illegal lobbying activities of the OMC has revealed that the troubled agency "does not have the arms-length relationship called for between a government agency and the industry it is supposed to regulate." That investigation finally awoke a sleeping Congress with several Members introducing proposals to restructure or reform the OMC.

The Teamsters Union recently unveiled its ten-part plan to ensure that whatever reforms are made within the OMC will result in greater enforcement and safer highways. The plan emphasizes increased driver training, better enforcement of current regulations, increased truck and bus safety inspections and continued education of the driving public in sharing the responsibility for safety with truck drivers.

"Our goal is to provide greater highway safety for our members and the traveling public," said General President Jim Hoffa. "The OMC has to get back to its mission of inspection and enforcement. It should focus on getting the bad carriers out of the business and the bad drivers off the road."


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1999 The International Brotherhood of Teamsters