Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Calls Upon Congress to Pass Meaningful Patient Protections
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Raanan Weintraub, (202) 387-2800
Mandell: "The Senate bill intentionally and irrationally covers too few people and offers too few patient protections. It falls far short of covering all 161 million insured Americans."
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2000 - In response to a Senate vote last night adding an amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4577) that would provide limited patient protections to a fraction of insured Americans, Jeff Mandell, Legislative Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
Last night's Senate vote was not about providing patient protections; it was about playing partisan politics. The health care of our citizens - our aged, our children, our families - is too important to be used as a mere pawn in a congressional chess match. It is absolutely imperative that Congress reach agreement on a comprehensive Patient's Bill of Rights before this session ends. Last night's Senate vote offers only the illusion of patient protections. Everyone agrees that patients should be better protected; the Senate proposal does not accomplish this. It purports to allow patients a limited right to sue. Indeed, it is very limited. The Senate bill intentionally and irrationally covers too few people and offers too few patient protections. It falls far short of covering all 161 million insured Americans.
An effective Patients' Bill of Rights would include long overdue measures involving HMO legal accountability, the freedom to visit medical specialists, accessibility of HMO rules and the provision that HMOs provide an outlet for complaints and grievances. Such a bill has already been approved by the House. The House-passed bill grants more extensive protections to more Americans. It is also more reflective of public opinion than the Senate bill. As a result, the most recent vote in the Senate left the fate of patients' rights legislation muddled.
How outrageous that Congress cannot reach agreement on protecting the rights of those Americans who have health coverage while there is not even substantive discussion of the millions of Americans - over 11 million of them children - who have no medical insurance at all. Jewish tradition teaches that providing health care is not just an obligation for the patient and doctor, but for society as well. Medical care is not just another commodity. It is about saving and improving the quality of lives. A comprehensive and fair Patient's Bill of Rights would be a modest step toward fulfilling our moral obligation to provide quality health care to all members of society.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.