News Release

With Battle Set to Begin in Senate Today, Analysts Assess “Patients’ Bill of Rights”

With the Senate scheduled to begin debate today on proposals for a patients’ bill of rights, there were news reports this morning that Republican leaders will seek a delay. Meanwhile, some medical policy critics contend that the proposed Senate measures are too narrow in scope.

The following policy analysts are available for interviews:

QUENTIN YOUNG, M.D.
National coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, Young said today: “The heart of our problem is the takeover of health care by corporate interests. Having the right to sue an HMO is an attempt to seek justice after the HMO has inflicted the harm. But we have to stop the harm. We have an urgent need to establish universal coverage, like Medicare for all. We spend almost twice as much as the next country — $4,200 per capita — despite the fact that 42 million people in the U.S. have no insurance and 50 million have poor insurance. Switzerland spends $2,400, Germany spends $2,300, France spends $2,200, Canada spends $2,000 per person. Each of these countries covers the entire population, has higher patient satisfaction and has better health indices, like life expectancy, infant mortality and freedom from preventable diseases.”
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JAMIE COURT
Court, executive director of the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is co-author of Making a Killing: HMOs and the Threat to Your Health. He said today: “A federal patients’ bill of rights deserves a second look, especially a look in the direction of California, which has the strongest patients’ rights laws in the nation. The White House claims that the Kennedy-McCain bill benefits lawyers, not patients, because it would allow patients the right to sue HMOs for as much in damages as is allowed under state law against other industries, instead of capping damages at a lower level. In fact, California’s right-to-sue law has been in effect since January and, despite the unlimited damages it provides for, there has not been a single lawsuit filed. Instead, HMOs appear to be deferring more to patients’ requests for treatment, according to the first data to emerge from the state’s HMO regulator.”
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NANCY M. FRIEDMAN
Friedman is chair of Vote Health, an organization based in Oakland, Calif., working locally to improve health care access and quality. She said today: “We can’t get excited about tweaking the regulation of HMOs — it’s a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Health care in this country is in grave crisis, with the regular cutbacks and closings of county health care ‘safety nets.’ Growing numbers of uninsured and under-insured rely on emergency rooms for their health care needs, and treatment of illness places a huge financial burden on people that takes them years to recover from. The most fundamental patient right is access to care, but until we have a government-sponsored single payer health care fund, this is a right denied to millions in the wealthiest country on the planet.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167