Patients’ rights bill stirs partisan debates

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001

The spirit of bipartisanship seems to be fading fast in Congress, where the U.S. Senate’s debate over long-dormant patients’ right legislation is deepening the political divide.

Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided over the issue of patients’ rights, particularly the right of patients to sue HMOs or insurance providers and the technicalities of guaranteeing emergency medical care and access to that care.

The issues at the heart at the debate seem to be unarguable. Most Americans would agree that patients deserve a guarantee of access to emergency care, regardless of ability to pay or insurance questions; that patients should have direct access to obstetricians, gynecologists and other specialists; and that overnight hospital stays for some procedures, such as mastectomies, should be guaranteed. What many can’t agree on, however, is whether or not patients have the right to sue for damages based on denial of access and just how much those damages should be.

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And while Americans have resoundingly issued a call for patients’ rights legislation, our U.S. senators can’t seem to hear that call over all the arguing and political posturing in their chamber.

What we need is compromise legislation – a bill born of the desire to truly achieve bipartisanship in the U.S. senate. And we need leadership from our elected officials to reach that point.

We expect no less from our U.S. senators, and we believe it’s time to put the bipartisanship aside once and for all.