The debate over a patients bill of rights heated up both in the Senate and the House.
The main bone of contention remains the extent to which patients would be able to sue their employers and health plans over adverse coverage decisions that cause death or significant harm.
The Senate began debate on S. 872, the legislation introduced by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., that would allow patients to sue both health plans and plan sponsors in state courts over adverse decisions that cause death or significant injury.
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Opponents of S. 872 are expected to offer a variety of amendments aimed at easing the liability provisions.
Opponents support legislation, S. 889, backed by President Bush, that would require patients to exhaust all administrative remedies before going to court.
However, if patients do file suit, S. 889 requires the suit to be filed in federal court. The bill caps non-economic damages at $500,000.
Meanwhile, House Republican leaders were expected at press time to introduce a compromise plan allowing patients to sue their health plans in state courts under certain circumstances.
Specifically, a patient could sue a plan in state court if he or she receives a favorable decision by an independent external review panel, and if the health plan fails to abide by the panels decision.