Clinton, Democratic Leaders Push Consumer Health Bill
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 14) -- President Bill Clinton joined with Democratic congressional leaders today to highlight their shared goal of passing a consumer bill of rights for individuals who get their health care through managed care programs.
Clinton said the administration has made progress in health care reform, but it's important to give consumers tools to protect themselves and to get quality care.
Clinton said he knows there are no easy answers and sponsors of managed care programs are under financial pressures.
"But the bottom line is you cannot justify putting people who pay their insurance premiums and are working hard and are trying to take care of themselves and their children at the kind of risk that so many Americans are at risk of today, because they don't have consumer protections that ought to be elemental in a society like this," Clinton said.
"I'm hoping that we can get a big, bipartisan vote for this bill," he added.
Clinton unveiled his version of the consumer proposal on Nov. 20. Clinton and Democratic leaders have outlined principles they believe should be addressed in any legislation, including:
- Enforceable, federal standards for health maintenance organization and other managed care coverage.
- Guaranteed access to health care providers within a reasonable period of time.
- Guaranteed access to emergency care and specialists.
- Confidentiality of medical records.
- An independent appeals process for patients who are unhappy with decisions made by their health care providers.
Republican leaders acknowledge the political power of the managed health care issue but are divided over legislation to respond to it.
Clinton appeared with Vice President Al Gore, Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) in a show of Democratic unity. Beforehand, senior White House aides said a meeting between the four would portray a picture of unity, as opposed to divisions highlighted at this week's national Republican party meeting in Palm Springs.
In a related development, Gore and Gephardt, who are likely rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, are scheduled to have dinner together Jan. 24 at the vice president's home. A Gephardt spokesman said the dinner is purely social.
Several interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, oppose any effort to turn the consumer bill of rights into legislation.
When Clinton first offered the proposal, Rep. Bill Archer, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told The Associated Press he was not eager to legislate any of the rights.
"Washington's willingness to solve everyone's problems has often led to unintended, costly consequences," Archer (R-Texas) said in a statement.
CNN's John King and Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.