The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2001

Principles for a Bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights

Patient Protections Should Apply to All Americans

A federal Patients' Bill of Rights should ensure that every person enrolled in a health plan enjoys strong patient protections. Because many states have passed patient protection laws that are appropriate for their states, deference should be given to these state laws and to the traditional authority of states to regulate health insurance.

Patient Protections Should be Comprehensive

A federal Patients' Bill of Rights should provide patient protections such as: access to emergency room and specialty care; direct access to obstetricians, gynecologists and pediatri-cians; access to needed prescription drugs and approved clinical trials; access to health plan information; a prohibition of "gag clauses"; consumer choice; and continuity of care protections.

Patients Should Have a Rapid Medical Review Process for Denials of Care

Patients should have the right to appeal a health plan's decision to deny care through both internal review and independent, binding external review.

The Review Process Should Ensure that Doctors are Allowed to Make Medical Decisions and Patients Receive Care in a Timely Manner

Slow and costly litigation should be a last resort. Patients should exhaust their appeals process first -- allowing independent medical experts to make medical decisions and ensuring patients receive necessary medical care without the expense or delay of going to court.

Federal Remedies Should Be Expanded to Hold Health Plans Accountable

After an independent review decision is rendered, patients should be allowed to hold their health plans liable in federal court if they have been wrongly denied needed medical care.

Patient Protection Legislation Should Encourage, Not Discourage, Employers to Offer Health Care

Employers, many of whom are struggling to offer health coverage to their employees, should be shielded from unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits and should not be subject to multiple lawsuits in state court. Increased litigation will only result in higher health care costs, potentially forcing employers to drop employee health coverage altogether. Only employers who retain responsibility for and make final medical decisions should be subject to suit.

Americans want meaningful remedies, not a windfall for trial lawyers resulting in expensive health care premiums and unaffordable health coverage. To protect patients' rights without encouraging excessive litigation, damages should be subject to reasonable caps.

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