NU Online News Service, Feb. 5, 3:22 p.m. — Washington

Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., says his new “patients’ bill of rights” bill has bipartisan support.

The bill is similar to a bill approved by the House in August 2001 that was based on an agreement worked out by Norwood and the White House.

The 2001 bill died in the 107th Congress because the House and Senate were unable to reach an agreement on a consensus version.

Norwood says that, at a time of rising health care costs, his patient protection bill, which at press time did not yet have a number, is even more important.

“When insurers and employers are concerned about the cost of health care, the quality of patient care can be jeopardized for the bottom line,” Norwood says in a statement. “We must put laws in place that make certain the concern for the bottom line doesn’t go too far.”

But health insurers are blasting the bill, saying it would drive up health insurance costs and increase the number of Americans without insurance.

Dr. Donald Young, president of the Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, calls the bill a “bad idea whose time has already passed.”

“Rather than being a constructive step toward better health care, it is instead a worn-out measure that would hurt the very consumers it purports to help,” Young says.

The bill would establish mandatory internal and external appeals processes to determine whether a treatment plan were medically necessary.

In addition, the bill would mandate access to emergency health services, timely access to specialists and access to certain types of drugs and medical devices.

The bill would also bar health plans from restricting physicians’ advice to patients, using certain types of physician incentive systems, or retaliating against participants or providers who filed grievances.

Norwood says the provisions in his bill are supported by almost every returning member of Congress.

“This is a bill that should pass the House under suspension and the Senate by unanimous consent,” he says.

But Young says the bill would impose hundreds of new, duplicative federal regulations on health plans, throw out the insurers’ right to contract, and require insurers to rewrite millions of existing insurance policies.

All of this, he says, would require higher premiums.