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Statement Of Mark J. Pelavin Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism on the Senate's Refusal to Pass Meaningful Patient Protections
July 15, 1999

Today, 43 million Americans lack health insurance, with 1 million people a year added to the ranks of the uninsured. Today, another 23 million families are underinsured, spending more than 10% of their income on health care, and today, health care costs are rising through the roof and quality of health care is uneven, with overuse, underuse and misuse of services far from uncommon. Yet, today, the Senate could not even muster a majority for a bill ensuring that patients with insurance receive common sense patient protections.

Over many centuries Judaism developed rules and regulations aimed at ensuring that all residents of the community had access to quality health care. Maimonides, a revered Jewish scholar, listed health care first on his list of the ten most important communal services that a city had to offer to its residents (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De'ot IV: 23). While it would not have solved the myriad problems in our nation's health care system, a comprehensive, enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights would have brought us a step closer to fulfilling our moral obligation to provide quality health care to all members of society.

Unfortunately, many of the patient protections orginally contained in the Patients' Bill of Rights were stricken from the bill through a series of amendments. The bill that passed the Senate today does not go far enough in providing real access to emergency rooms, specialists, and clinical trials and in making sure that HMO's do not arbitrarily interfere with medical decisions that should be left up to doctors and patients. Moreover, it fails to cover 113 million insured Americans or to provide a meaningful process through which patients can hold their insurance companies accountable.

We have a long road to travel before we have a health care system which provides high quality service to all Americans. Sadly, today, the Senate has refused to take even the first step down that road.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.

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