House-passed legislation to regulate the business practices of managed-care plans would increase average insurance premiums by 4.1%, the Congressional Budget Office reported last week.
Meanwhile, a Senate bill, which lacks a key House bill provision, would increase premiums by just 1.3%, the CBO found.
The report came as a conference committee is about to begin negotiations to resolve differences between the two versions of a "patients' bill of rights." The Senate version doesn't allow enrollees to sue for financial compensation for injuries or deaths attributed to coverage denials, but relies on an administrative appeals process.
The House bill gives enrollees access to the courts and an administrative appeals process. It also guarantees job protection to healthcare workers who report their employers' violations of the law to state authorities.
Of the 4.1% increase in premiums in the House bill, 1% would stem from the right-to-sue provisions, the CBO reported.
The conference committee's first formal meeting was postponed from last week until the week of Feb. 27.
President Clinton urged the conference committee to endorse the House-passed bill.