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ACP-ASIM Pressroom

ACP-ASIM Commends House on Bipartisan Approval of Patient's Bill of Rights

October 8, 1999

(Washington, DC): The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine applauds the passage of the "Patient's Bill of Rights Legislation" last evening in the House of Representatives. The bill, which gives patients new protections such as access to specialty care, external appeals of health plan denials, and the ability to sue Health Maintenance Organizations in state courts, received bipartisan support in a 275-151 vote.

"Passage of this measure shows how effective bipartisan support can be for legislation that will improve the efficiency and trust in the healthcare system," said ACP-ASIM President Whitney Addington MD, FACP. "This bill will improve patient care in managed care as it is clearly in a patient's interest to have medical necessity decisions made by their personal physicians, based on the individual's particular circumstances and the available clinical evidence on the effectiveness of different treatments."

The Patient's Bill of Rights, as sponsored by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), has support from the Administration although the likelihood of this bill becoming a law is in doubt. The Senate version of the HMO reform bill passed in July lacked key patient protections and President Bill Clinton threatened to veto it.

Specifically, it extended patient protections only to Americans covered by self-insured plans under ERISA, leaving everyone else without any federal protections. It also denied individuals the ability to sue their HMOs in cases where coverage of medical procedures was delayed or denied. Differences between the two bills must now be resolved in conference committee.

"The House bill mandates that patients should have an effective mechanism for appealing arbitrary denials of treatment and be able to choose a qualified specialist to provide their medical care," Addington said. "It is our hope that this bill, which has received great support within the medical community, is enacted into law for the benefit of those in our care. We call on House and Senate conferees to agree on a bill that includes the essential patient protections that were passed yesterday by the House of Representatives."

Also included in the Norwood-Dingell bill are a host of new rights in dealing with their health insurance companies. It would make it easier to go to an emergency room or see a specialist, give patients the chance to take their complaints to independent panels and lifts a federal ban and allows patients who are still not satisfied the right to sue an HMO in state court.

ACP-ASIM is the nation's largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group. Membership comprises more than 115,000 internal medicine physicians and medical students. Internists are the major providers of medical care to adults in America and treat more Medicare patients than any other medical specialists.


Jack E. Pope, 202-261-4556

Page updated: 11-04-03

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