Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.), introduced a new patient protection bill on Wednesday, following up on the failure of his patients' bill of rights in Congress last year.
In 2002, the House and Senate each approved different versions of the patients' rights legislation, but negotiations to reconcile the two separate bills stalled. Specifically, the House version did not include the Senate provision to allow patients to sue HMOs in state or federal courts.
Norwood's new bill does not mention a right to sue, but it does grant patients the right to an independent review when a doctor and an insurance company disagree on a treatment, according to a release from his office.
The release adds that the new bill would also require that managed care enrollees have access to emergency and pediatric care and prescription drugs, as well as guarantee their access to information and protect the doctor-patient relationship.
Norwood also introduced a second measure, the ERISA Clarification Act, which clarifies the Supreme Court's Rush v. Moran decision, stating that the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not block actions against health plans for denials of care from proceeding in state courts.
Norwood's office adds that the new patient protection bill does not include provisions on medical savings accounts and association health plans, which were amended to the House version of his 2002 bill but are now expected to be introduced in other bills in the next few months.
"I know others will say that with health care costs on the rise, now is not the time for patient protections," Norwood says in the release. "But from my perspective, now is precisely the time for patient protections. When insurers and employers are concerned about the cost of health care, the quality of patient care can be jeopardized for the bottom line."