THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Wednesday, July 15, 1998
A PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS FOR QUALITY HEALTH CARE
To ensure that every American is protected by a Patients' Bill of Rights, Congress must also act. In the remaining days left in this legislative session, I call on the Congress once again to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights, a bill that guarantees access to specialists, so people with cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening illnesses get the care they need, a bill that guarantees continuity of care, so pregnant women can have the same doctor throughout their pregnancy, even if that doctor is dropped from a plan, a bill that makes these rights real by guaranteeing a remedy to people who have been injured or lost family members as a result of a bad decision. That is the kind of comprehensive Patients' Bill of Rights America needs and deserves. We need progress, not partisanship.
President Bill Clinton
July 15, 1998
Today, President Clinton meets with doctors, nurses, and families from around the nation to highlight the need for Congress to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights this year. During this roundtable event, President Clinton announces that the federal government is implementing the Patients' Bill of Rights for the 85 million Americans in federal health plans and that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is beginning implementation of an external appeals process for the 3 million veterans served by the VA.
President Clinton Calls On Congress To Pass An Enforceable Patients' Bill Of Rights. For eight months the President has been urging Congress to pass a Patients' Bill of Rights that includes:
- Guaranteed Access To Needed Health Care Specialists;
- Access To Emergency Room Services When And Where The Need Arises;
- Continuity Of Care Protections To Assure Patient Care will not change abruptly if their provider is dropped;
- Access To A Timely Internal And Independent External Appeals Process for consumers to resolve their differences with their health plans;
- A Limit On Financial Incentives To Doctors;
- Assuring That Doctors And Patients Can Openly Discuss Treatment Options;
- Assuring that Women Have Direct Access To An OB-GYN;
- An Enforcement Mechanism That Ensures Recourse For Patients who have been maimed or die as a result of health plan actions.
Implementing The Patients' Bill Of Rights For Americans In Federal Health Plans. While Congress has delayed passing Patients' Bill of Rights legislation, the Clinton Administration is taking steps to protect patients. In February 1998, the President signed an Executive Memorandum directing the federal health plans overseeing 85 million Americans to implement the Patients' Bill of Rights. The VA is also beginning the implementation of an external appeals process for the 3 million veterans served by the VA. This new external appeals process builds on other protections already in place at the VA, including: (1) assuring patients full participation in treatment decisions, (2) access to specialists, (4) access to women's health services, (5) preventing anti-gag clauses, (6) financial incentives to limit care, and (7) one of the most extensive internal appeals processes in the country.
The Republican Proposal Falls Short Of Assuring Patients The Protections They Need. With less than forty days left in this Congressional Session, the Republican proposal for patient protections falls short in many areas, it does not include (1) access to specialists, (2) financial incentives for doctors so that patients are not put at risk through unknown financial incentives to limit patient care, (3) a strong, workable enforcement provision that is essential to ensure that these protections are real. Moreover, the Republican proposal only applies to Americans in self-insured plans and excludes the majority of Americans who are in fully-insured plans, leaving tens of millions of Americans excluded from these protections unless the rights they need are passed by their state legislature.
The President Remains Focused And Committed To Passing A Strong Patients' Bill Of Rights. Although the President disagrees with Republican proposals on this issue, he is committed to passing a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights this year. The President's leadership is ensuring fundamental health protections for 85 million Americans -- now Congress must join the President and pass this vital legislation.