Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ads Pit Nurse vs. Frankenstein

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ads Pit Nurse vs. Frankenstein

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- A frustrated nurse goes up against Frankenstein's monster this week in a battle of ads coming at Americans as Congress prepares to debate new rules on health plans.

"These bureaucrats from the insurance companies: They routinely deny care and they make decisions that only doctors should be making," complains Chicago nurse Lynn Pius in one million-dollar radio and TV ad campaign sponsored by the AFL-CIO.

"Washington should be careful how it plays doctor," counters a radio ad sponsored by The Health Benefits Coalition, which includes some of the nation's largest health insurers and business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers.

In the radio ad, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a lead sponsor of a "patients' rights" bill supported by congressional Democrats and President Clinton, is portrayed as a bumbling, mad scientist.

"Our creation is reviving," says a voice intended to be Kennedy's that then sounds horrified at what he has created.

"Oh no! Frankenstein's monster!"

It's all part of a big-money lobbying fight between labor and consumer groups on one side -- who want federal mandates to protect patients from health plan restrictions -- and insurance companies and employers on the other, who argue that new rules would make health benefits unaffordable.

The entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate are up for re-election this fall, and polls indicate health care is a priority for voters.

Clinton has helped Democratic lawmakers make a proposed "patients' bill of rights" a hot issue on Capitol Hill this summer. Republicans responded last week by introducing their own bills, and debate could begin as soon as this week.

Although the competing plans vary widely on the protection offered and to whom, both Democrats and Republicans are seeking new guarantees for millions of consumers when they use their health insurance. Payment for emergency room care in any apparent medical crisis is one example.

However, among their differences, Democrats support and most Republicans oppose lifting a federal law that currently protects many health plans from high-stakes lawsuits. …

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