Experts Available On Patients' Bill Of Rights & Related Issues

NCPA Health Experts Can Discuss Patients' Rights, Public Interest, Uninsured, MSA Expansion, etc.

June 21, 2001 -- The Senate is scheduled to begin debate today on competing versions of managed care reform, commonly referred to as the "Patients' Bill of Rights," in what will be the first major policy showdown of the newly configured Senate.

While the debate will focus on the measure sponsored by Sens. McCain, Kennedy and Edwards, a wide array of health issues will likely be debated and voted upon throughout the amendment process. The NCPA's team of health policy experts will be available throughout this process to provide non-partisan insight and analysis as the issues arise. Among the key issues NCPA experts can discuss are:

  • Is public opinion really in favor of the Patients' Bill of Rights, as proponents insist?
  • What would be the effect of turning what is essentially a contract dispute into tort law?
  • Would increased liability lead to higher premiums and a rise in the uninsured population?
  • Should Congress focus on ways to make private insurance more affordable, such as creating tax credits for its purchase?
  • By empowering patients with the ability to make treatment decisions, would Medical Savings Accounts solve many of the problems the Patients' Bill of Rights attempts to address?


Greg Scandlen. Senior Fellow in Health Policy, Mr. Scandlen is known as the nation's foremost expert on the movement towards a defined contribution approach for health plans and is an expert on MSA expansion.

John C. Goodman, Ph.D. President and founder of the NCPA, Dr. Goodman is known as the "father of Medical Savings Accounts," and is a leading voice for using tax credits to help the uninsured purchase private health insurance.

Robert Goldberg, Ph.D. Senior Fellow in Health Policy, Dr. Goldberg specializes in prescription drugs and pharmaceutical policy issues.

Jack Strayer. Vice President of External Affairs for the NCPA, Mr. Strayer is a recognized expert in state and federal health insurance reform.



Key Questions About A Patients' Bill Of Rights

Q: Do the American people really want a Patient's Bill of Rights as proposed by Sens. McCain, Kennedy and Edwards?

A: Not necessarily. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that Americans think many health care issues are important for Congress and the president to deal with, yet they rank "protecting patients' rights" at the bottom of the list. Ironically, supporters of the McCain-Kennedy bill, such as the American Medical Association, use the Kaiser survey to buttress their case, pointing out that 85% of the respondents favor a "Patient's Bill of Rights." What the AMA is not saying, is when told that some employers might be forced to stop providing health insurance for their employees, support for "Patient's Bill of Rights" drops by more than half. Importantly, more people (47%) would oppose it, than support it (41%).

Q: Is the Patient's Bill of Rights needed to allow patients to sue their HMO?

A: No. Patients can already sue their HMO for a variety of reasons, including payment for treatments not covered by their plans. McCain-Kennedy would merely increase the exposure of insurance companies to litigation by opening up state courts, and shifting what are essentially contract disputes into tort cases. This means that insurance companies would be liable not only for the costs of benefits (contract law), but also for economic losses and punitive damages associated with any claims (tort law).

Q: What affect would McCain-Kennedy have on the cost of health insurance?

A: By allowing HMOs to be sued for economic losses and punitive damages associated with contract disputes, insurance companies will likely have to raise premiums. These increased premiums could make it impossible for some employers to afford health care coverage for their employees.

Q: What is the difference between the bipartisan McCain-Kennedy- Edwards and the tripartisan Breaux-Frist-Jeffords bills?

A: The main difference is in the amount of economic and punitive liability that the HMOs would be subject to. The McCain-Kennedy-Edwards bill sets a cap at $5 million, while the Breaux-Frist-Jeffords bill sets it at $500,000. Additionally, McCain-Kennedy allows contract disputes to be heard in state court, while the Breaux-Frist bill only allows them in federal court.

Q: Should Congress instead focus on ways to make private health insurance more affordable?

A: Yes. By providing tax-credits for the purchase of health insurance, and allowing every American to own a Medical Savings Account, Congress can solve many of the problems that the "Patient's Bill of Rights" attempts to address.