Magazine article Medical Economics

Why Congress Won't Pass Health Care Legislation in 2000

Magazine article Medical Economics

Why Congress Won't Pass Health Care Legislation in 2000

Article excerpt

As a rule, Congress doesn't legislate during a presidential election year. And the rule will most likely hold in 2000.

At the end of last year, Congress left the patient protection act dangling. The House had passed a tough bill that applies to all Americans with private health insurance (about 161 million people) and gives patients the right to sue managed care organizations in state courts. The Senate had passed a bill that applies only to Americans in self-insured health plans (about 48 million people) and has no provision for lawsuits.

Now Congress is in the process of reconciling the two bills. Sen. Don Nickles, R-OK, who chairs the reconciliation committee, says he wants the differences settled and legislation acted upon this month. While patient protection has strong public support, it's doubtful that Congress will enact a bill. More likely, the opponents of patient protection-mostly Republicans-will find a way to stall action without openly voting down the bill.

The reduction of medical errors, a concern that's grown substantially since the Institute of Medicine issued a damning report on the subject late last year, will get a lot of attention. Hearings have already been held, and legislation to require that medical mistakes be reported to state or federal government agencies is under consideration. Congress is unlikely to act on this relatively new issue just yet, but in late February President Clinton said he would order hospitals to institute programs to improve patient safety. …

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