House Predicted to Approve HMO Bill: Armey Decries Likely Passage of Campaign Reform

By Boyer, Dave | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 13, 1999 | Go to article overview

House Predicted to Approve HMO Bill: Armey Decries Likely Passage of Campaign Reform


Boyer, Dave, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


House Majority Leader Dick Armey says the House probably will pass two reform bills this month that the GOP leadership opposes: a managed care measure that makes health maintenance organizations vulnerable to lawsuits, and campaign-finance reforms.

Mr. Armey, in an interview Friday with The Washington Times, acknowledged there is still considerable bipartisan support for an HMO bill proposed by Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, and Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican. The measure would allow patients to sue their HMOs in state court for delayed or denied care.

"My fear is that Norwood-Dingell passes," said Mr. Armey, Texas Republican. "This would be the triumph of demagoguery over policy again. The Democrats are saying you're not being fair to a patient unless you give some lawyer the right to sue. To me, this is heartless. It's so darned callous in its disregard for the well-being of the people we want to protect."

Mr. Armey said he is working instead to revive a GOP plan passed by the House in July 1998 that would have created an external appeals process and other safeguards for patients denied care by HMOs. That bill was drafted by a task force appointed by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. It died in the Senate.

"I thought the House did a remarkably good job a year ago," Mr. Armey said. "I hope to put our bill from last year into the mix."

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, has promised a vote this month on another managed-care bill, one sponsored by GOP Reps. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Shadegg of Arizona. That measure would allow patients to sue their HMO in federal court in limited cases. Republican leaders haven't endorsed the proposal.

GOP Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has endorsed both the bipartisan bill and the Coburn-Shadegg measure, said late last week that the party leadership is "losing control of this issue."

On campaign-finance reform, Mr. Armey said the House, where Republicans have a five-seat majority, is again likely to pass a bill that would ban "soft money" in federal elections. The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, was approved last year by 61 Republicans and 190 Democrats in the House.

The House will take up the issue this week. …

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