NU Online News Service, Aug. 3, 11:48 a.m. — Washington
The compromise patients’ bill of rights legislation approved by the House and endorsed by President Bush is drawing fire from all sides in the health care debate.
Health insurers and employers argue that the legislation, which the president negotiated with Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., goes too far and still subjects health plans and plan sponsors to excessive litigation.
Meanwhile, physician and consumer groups say the legislation favors insurers over patients and will not provide genuine protection.
Donald Young, interim president of the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, says the legislation?which the House approved Thursday night by a 226-203 vote?remains deeply flawed.
The bill permits lawsuits in state courts with 50 different and inconsistent interpretations of federal law, he says, and does nothing to stem the tide of litigation that will drive up the cost of health coverage.
“And worst of all, this bill will result in more Americans, particularly the most vulnerable lower income workers and their families, joining the rolls of the uninsured,” Young says.
He called on an upcoming House-Senate Conference Committee?which will work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation?to correct the “flaws.”
Earlier, the Senate approved a version of the legislation that would subject both health plans and plan sponsors to litigation in state courts with no caps on liability. President Bush said he would veto that bill if it reached his desk.
Similarly, a major employers’ group, the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, says that while the House bill is better than the Senate bill, it is still more than NAM can support.
“This agreement was about making the best of a bad situation, but we remain greatly concerned that the legislation will move further to the left in the subsequent conference,” says Mike Baroody, executive vice president of NAM.
“What we need are reforms that ensure fairness and accountability,” he says. “What we don’t need is a bill that expands health care liability or allows health plan contracts to be disregarded.”
But the American Medical Association, Chicago, says it opposes the House bill because it does not go far enough.