NU Online News Service, June 18, 2:05 p.m. ? Washington
The battle over patients’ bill of rights legislation reentered the spotlight last week both in the Senate and the House.
In the Senate, the new Democratic leadership is expected to bring the controversial bill S. 283 to the floor, possibly as early as this week.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., identified the legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., as a top legislative priority.
Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., one of the leaders of patients’ bill of rights legislation in the House, announced that he would formally support the counterpart to S. 283 in the House, numbered H.R. 526.
Norwood had been holding off on formally endorsing H.R. 526 while trying to work out a compromise.
However, he says, the new momentum behind the legislation in the Senate led him to co-sponsor the House version.
“While the issue was still on the backburner, I felt we had time to try to create a bill that would have universal support from Congress and the White House,” Norwood says in a statement.
But now that the issue has emerged, he says, everyone has to make a choice on what to support.
He calls H.R. 526/S. 283 the only legislation “that guarantees a patient will find justice if they are injured or killed from improperly denied care.”
Meanwhile, two prominent members of the House expressed concerns over the new momentum for H.R. 526.
“We are deeply disturbed at renewed efforts to introduced unlimited lawsuits into America’s health care system, and we fear such actions can only lead to further gridlock on patients’ rights,” say Reps. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sam Johnson, R-Texas, in a joint statement.
They say that Americans don’t want unlimited lawsuits. Rather, Boehner and Johnson say, Americans want assurances they will get the care they need when they need it.
“This requires a balanced approach built on sound public policy, not a divisive approach fueled by political considerations and special interest priorities,” they say.