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Health Care News, Analysis and Opinion




HMOs Launch "Campaign 2000"

Managed care providers, who blocked HMO regulation proposed in Congress in the fall of 1998, are already planning to shape the health care debate for the elections in 2000. The American Association of Health Plans will soon launch a $1 million media offensive in early Presidential contest states Iowa and New Hampshire. Its message: A government-knows-best approach will cost workers and small business owners dearly.

"We want to change the anti-managed care climate," says AAHP chief Karen M. Ignagni.

(from Business Week, November 9, 1998)

An Associated Press article written in November of 1998 details the expenditure of $60 million lobbying the 105th Congress to defeat any type of reform. (This article is located on another web site. Use your "BACK" button to return to here.)

In the current session of Congress, both parties have already proposed legislation with "Patients' Bill of Rights" in the title. The Democrats were first with S. 6/H. R. 358. In the Senate, the "Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 1999" was sponsored by Sen. Tom Dashcle, with 31 additional co-sponsors. The Republicans followed with S. 300 and H. R. 448. Sen. Trent Lott and 49 others sponsored the "Patients' Bill of Rights Plus Act." The "Plus" apparently refers to the promotion of "Medical Savings Accounts" tacked onto such rights as the Republican leadership has seen fit to bestow. Here's a few rights; plus, bend over.

There are other bills proposing a variety of minor reforms. S. 117 would permit individuals to continue existing health plan coverage while participating in clinical trials. H. R. 76 would change hospital security procedures to make infant abductions less likely. H. R. 293 would prohibit health plans from discriminating against individuals on the basis of genetic information. H. R. 567 would require a non-emergency doctor to be available at all times for hospitalized patients. These minor bills, taken together, may do as much to improve health care as the major ones. That is, perhaps a little improvement, but not much, and certainly nothing to get enthusiastic about.

It should be no surprise that the Democrats propose more and better rights than do the Republicans. The Families USA web site has a detailed chart comparing this legislation on these points. However, both sides here are dealing with rights that could be exercised only by individuals who have health insurance, and then only within limits set by the terms of that coverage. Neither the Republican nor the Democratic leadership has seen fit to address health care for the uninsured or the underinsured - that would be anywhere from a minimum of 17% of the American population to more than 25%, depending on where the line is drawn between "decently insured" and "underinsured." With all the rights proposed, there is no right to health insurance coverage and no requirement that the coverage meet any minimal standard.

Congressman John Dingell of Michigan, with no co-sponsors, has introduced H. R. 16 "to provide a program of national health insurance, and for other purposes." His plan falls somewhat short of universal health coverage and depends on the creation of a national Value Added Tax for its financing. In this Congress, short of a revolutionary uproar in the society, it will not get any serious consideration.

Thomas - U. S. Congress on the Internet has the full text and current status of bills under consideration in Congress. It will help to know the numbers of the bills you are looking for. (see above) This web site is run by the Library of Congress.

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