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June Capitol Hill Watch Alert

Vote expected on Patients Bill of Rights Legislation by Early Summer

Two health insurance reform bills currently being proposed in the Senate are estimated to increase health premiums for most Americans. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis indicated that the median annual health insurance premium would increase 2.9 percent under a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) reform bill by Frist-Breaux (Bipartisan Patients Bill of Rights Act - To view this bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:s.00889:) and supported by the Bush administration. In comparison a rival plan by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and John McCain (Republican-Arizona) (Bipartisan Patients Protection Act - To view this bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:s.01052:) would increase annual premiums by 4.2 percent. (1)

The Frist bill would allow patients to sue their HMO's when necessary medical treatment is denied. However, it caps damages at $500,000 and limits suits to federal courts. According to supporters of the bill, the caps would keep insurers from increasing rates.

The plan promoted by Senators Kennedy and McCain that would allow suits in both state and federal courts with awards up to $5 million is the focus of the Democrats. Because of the new rights promised for the care of patients, supporters say any premium increase through this measure is a small price to pay.

A factor not addressed by either bill is the loss of health insurance people will face when employers remove it from their employee benefits package. The National Federation of Independent Business said on June 18, 2001, "The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Kennedy-McCain bill would increase costs 4.2 percent, which translates into 1.2 million more American's without health insurance." (2)

The small business lobby continued, "And that doesn't even count employers who will stop providing insurance because they fear lawsuits over coverage decisions they don't control." (3)

For each one percent increase in the cost of insurance, 300,000 Americans will lose coverage indicates the Health Insurance Association of America. (4)

By 2010 the managed care reform bills currently being debated in Congress could cause an additional 9.2 million Americans to lose their health care insurance according to a new analysis by the Employment Policy Foundation. (EPF) (5)

Eventually, the rapid loss of health insurance among hundreds of thousands of Americans will lead to socialized medicine as the throngs of Americans without health insurance seek some sort of coverage.

1 Anjetta McQueen, "Analysis: Bush HMO Plan Would Be Less," The Associated Press, June 8, 2001

2 Donald Lambro, "Patients' rights bill stalls in Senate," The Washington Times, June 19, 2001

3 Ibid

4 "Patients' Rights Legislation: The Triangle of Health Insurance: Quality, Cost and Access," Policy Backgrounder, June 20, 2001, Employment Policy Foundation

5 Ibid

For more information — Patient's Bill of Rights Report

What Can You Do?

Please urge your senators not to support patients' bill of rights legislation because it will overburden employer's ability to offer health care insurance and eventually lead the nation into socialized medical care.

Contact Information:

Capitol Hill Switchboard Numbers: 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121 (Those numbers will direct you to the Capitol Hill operator. Ask for your senators' offices.)

To go to your senators' websites, find their E-mail or to find out who your senators are... http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm

Addressing Correspondence:

The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator (last name):

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