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Effective Patient Protections

Patients' Bill of Rights. The President strongly supports the passage of a Patients' Bill of Rights that leaves medical decisions in the hands of physicians, instead of insurance companies. A Patients' Bill of Rights must include comprehensive patient protections (such as access to emergency room or specialty care); independent, binding external medical review for denials of care; and meaningful legal remedies for patients who have been harmed by an HMO's denial of medical care.

The President further believes that the Patients' Bill of Rights should apply to all Americans in private health plans, but that we should give deference to the strong patient protection laws that have already been passed by many states. Patients should be guaranteed new federal appeals processes and legal remedies to hold their health plans accountable when they have been injured by a wrongful denial or delay in medical care, but employers should be shielded from unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits and damages. Damages should also be subject to reasonable caps to avoid expensive health care premiums and unaffordable health coverage.

Prohibition of Genetic Discrimination. The mapping of the human genome holds many bright prospects for the future of health care. However, with the newly discovered uses for genetic information, many people are concerned about the potential for discrimination based on this information. The President believes that to deny employment or health insurance to a healthy person based only on a genetic predisposition to a disease is unfair. People fear that employers could deny a job based on a person's genetic profile or health insurance companies might deny an application for coverage, or charge excessive premiums.

Genetic information should be used to prevent and treat disease, not to block access to jobs or medical care. Every person has a genetic predisposition to some disease or condition, but a genetic predisposition is not a guarantee that a person will get sick. Rather, it is information that can and should be used to take early and simple steps to prevent the risk of the development of disease. The President will work with Congress to develop fair and reasonable legislation consistent with existing discrimination laws that will make genetic discrimination illegal.