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New Patients’ Rights Bill Introduced In Senate

February 19, 2001

President Bush counters the Kennedy/McCain legislation with his own proposal

S ens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation similar to last Congress’s failed Dingell-Norwood “patients’ rights” bill—a proposal strongly opposed by the National Restaurant Association because it would create new lawsuits against employers, further increase the cost of health insurance, and threaten the future of America’s voluntary employer-sponsored heath care system.

“The Bipartisan Patient Protection Act (S. 283) would expand employer liability by allowing lawsuits in both state and federal courts for the same incident; cap ‘civil assessments,’ or punitive damages, in federal courts at $5 million; allow unlimited economic and non-economic damages in federal court and allow unlimited economic, non-economic and punitive damages in state court,” according to NRA Legislative Representative Gay Westbrook. “The bill allows lawsuits to be filed against employers before an independent external review of an appeal is completed.”

The NRA opposes provisions to expand employer liability for health care decisions made by health plan administrators.

The NRA believes the best patient protection is access to affordable health care and hopes to see legislation passed this year that includes NRA Health Plans (AHPs), which would allow trade groups to band together to offer health insurance to their members.

In response to S. 283, President Bush issued his “Principles for a Bipartisan Patients’ Bill of Rights” that clearly dif fer from the McCain/Kennedy bill. “The president’s priorities include protecting patients, but not doing so in a way that endangers employer-sponsored health plans, drives up costs, or omits meaningful tort reform,” says Westbrook.

“However, the Principles deal only with the issue of liability and do not address the issues of access and affordability, most notably failing to mention AHPs.”

The NRA is actively working to encourage the White House to remain committed to AHPs and to not allow expanded employer liability, which could force more Americans to lose their health insurance. During the presidential campaign, Bush specifically came out in sup-port of AHPs, and mentioned the National Restaurant Association in his endorsement.

Source: NRA Washington Weekly

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