THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Monday, November 2, 1998
FIGHTING FOR A PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS
Quality health care should not be a partisan issue. Quality health care is a practical issue for patients and their families. Fortunately, when it comes to issues like this one, Americans have an appeals process: it is called an election. I hope all Americans will go to the polls tomorrow and elect a Congress that is 100 percent committed to passing a patients' bill of rights.
President Bill Clinton
November 2, 1998
Today at the White House, President Clinton will urge voters to send back a Congress that shares his commitment to pass a strong enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights next year. The President will also unveil a report from the Vice President showing that the Federal government is taking all action within its authority to implement the Patients' Bill of Rights in health plans it administers or oversees.
The Next Congress Should Pass A Strong and Enforceable Patients' Bill Of Rights. For a full year, President Clinton has been calling on Congress to pass a strong, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights that includes: access to specialists, coverage of emergency room services when and where the need arises, continuity of care if an employer switches plans, an internal and independent external appeals process allowing individuals to challenge decisions by HMO accountants, and protections to assure that HMO's are held accountable when patients are harmed or injured due to a health plans' decisions. The Republican Congressional leadership failed to support the President's plan and instead introduced a bill that contained more loopholes than patient protections. The President is urging Americans to elect a Congress that shares his commitment to passing this important legislation.
The Clinton Administration Is Acting To Implement Patient Protections In Federal Health Plans. Today, the Vice President released a report highlighting that agencies working with health plans that cover roughly 85 million Americans have taken all action within their statutory authority to implement patient protections. As a result, these health plans are now, or soon will be, in virtual compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights. The report documents that:
- Over 9 million federal employees and their dependents will get new patient protections this year. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will specifically request that health plans serving over nine million federal employees and their dependents implement new protections to move closer to compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights. OPM has also issued new regulations to prevent "gag clauses" and is sending information to beneficiaries to ensure they are fully aware of their new patient protections;
- 39 million Medicare beneficiaries are benefitting from critical patient protections. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published an Interim Final rule that includes a series of new patient protections for Medicare beneficiaries, that, when implemented, will bring Medicare into virtual compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights;
- 38 million Medicaid beneficiaries are being assured essential protections in the Patients' Bill of Rights. The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adding new patients' protections for Medicaid beneficiaries to bring the program into compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights, where possible;
- Over 8 million Americans in the Defense Department's Military Health System (MHS) will receive the protections in the Patients' Bill of Rights by the end of this year;
- Over 3 million veterans are or will soon be assured virtually all patient protections. The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is implementing plans to offer veterans new protections, bringing DVA into virtual compliance with the Patients' Bill of Rights;
- The 125 Million Americans covered by ERISA are not assured critical protections. The Department of Labor, which oversees the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), issued a new regulation to implement an expedited internal appeals process and information disclosure requirement; however, the report shows that absent Congressional action to pass legislation, DOL does not have the authority to implement most patient protections.