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JUNE 24, 1999  3:07 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Institute for Public Accuracy
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or (202) 332-5055
David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
Health Care: Big Issues
 
WASHINGTON - June 24 -

Yesterday, for the first time, the American Medical Association voted to endorse unionization for doctors. Also, there is renewed discussion of a patients' bill of rights. The following analysts are available to discuss these and other health care policy issues:

DIANE LARDIE, (216) 241-8422, uhcan@uhcan.org, http://www.uhcan.org
National coordinator for the Universal Health Care Action Network, Lardie said: "Ten years ago, patient protection wasn't even a part of our language. It's only in a for-profit market system that we have to legislate protections that used to be taken for granted... What unnerves me about some of these proposals for a patients' bill of rights is that they are lip service for folks who are already insured -- the proposals end up providing very little for very few. Still there are important issues. Health plans must be held accountable for the decisions that they make. If we can sue doctors for medical decisions, we should be able to sue health plans. That option is important because it's a deterrent against poor care. There should also be a public accounting of health plans -- a process that would tell people what percentage of the cost of a plan is really going to health care. To the extent that we're paying for high salaries for executives or slick magazines, we need to know. Some of these plans have a role for a consumer advocate or an ombudsman, and that's a positive step. On the other hand, body-part-by-body-part or procedure-by-procedure legislation is counterproductive. What we need is a quality health system built on trust."

QUENTIN YOUNG, M.D., (312) 554-0382, pnhp@aol.com, http://www.pnhp.org
National coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program and past president of the American Public Health Association, Young said: "The patients' bill of rights proposals represent a scream of outrage by a public that doesn't know what hit them. The system in place in 1980 favored the doctor too much, but the patient also benefitted in many ways. That system's flaws fueled the Clinton plan, which was a 1,300-page monstrosity. The Clintons disregarded single payer because it wasn't ‘feasible' -- but how feasible was their plan? Since then, there's been an enormous amount of venture capital coming into health care, which is about maximizing profit. Having a patients' bill of rights that will allow people to sue their HMO and other reforms is good but will not solve the real problem. This system needs more than just tweaking. It needs to have universal national health insurance... The AMA backing unionizing is legitimate, but it should be coupled with a general effort to act on behalf of patients. The AMA has vast resources, and unfortunately it has used them to back reactionary policies, like blocking Medicare and universal health insurance."

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