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Bush Asks Congress for a Strong Patients’ Bill of Rights

Bush Asks Congress for a Strong Patients’ Bill of Rights

WASHINGTON—President Bush has called on Congress to enact a bipartisan and "strong Patients’ Bill of Rights." In letters to Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, he outlined the basic principles that he believes such a law should embody.

"My goal now in seeking federal legislation is simple: I want to ensure that all patients receive needed medical care and that doctors are allowed to make medical decisions," the President wrote.

Both Houses passed such legislation last year, but the two bills varied considerably in their provisions. Efforts to resolve the differences in a conference committee and to enact a new law failed. Leaders in both parties have pledged to again attempt to enact a bill during the current session.

The basic principles for a Patients’ Bill of Rights, as outlined by the President, are:

n Every person enrolled in a health care plan should enjoy strong patient protections. These protections should include "access to emergency room and specialty care; direct access to obstetricians, gynecologists, and pediatricians; access to needed prescription drugs and approved clinical trials; access to health plan information; a prohibition on ‘gag clauses’; consumer choice; and continuity of care."

  • The right to appeal a health plan’s denial of care.

  • Medical decisions should be made by doctors, and patients should receive care in a timely manner.

  • Slow and costly litigation should be a last resort, but once a decision is rendered by an independent medical expert, "patient’s should be allowed to hold their health plans liable in federal court if they have been wrongly denied needed medical care."

  • Employers should be protected against unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits and should not be subjected to multiple lawsuits in state courts.

Noting the pending legislation in Congress, the President gently prodded its members to make some changes. "I do not believe that any bill currently before the Congress meets all of these principles," he said.

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