Clinton Urges Patient Rights Bill

Thursday, May 11th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hoping to jump-start negotiations stalled in Congress, President Clinton met with lawmakers today and urged them to finish work on legislation giving Americans more leverage when dealing with their health plans.

``We are here to determine what the issues are and what the processes are to resolve them,'' Clinton said as the meeting opened at the White House. He sat next to Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., chairman of the committee working on a compromise bill, and was surrounded by other congressional leaders of both parties whose committees have jurisdiction over health insurance plans.

Most of the meeting was closed to the press. Clinton planned to tell lawmakers he was impatient with the slow progress of their negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of patient protection legislation, according to a White House statement.

The president also was to criticize a plan offered by Senate Republicans because it would not cover all Americans in health plans and had ``weak enforcement provisions'' that do not expand patients' rights to sue their health plans if they are harmed by decisions to deny care.

Clinton favors a House-passed bill that would cover all Americans and expand rights to sue.

Bipartisan negotiators who have worked for 11 weeks on a patient' bill of rights have made some progress in reaching a compromise.

But the conference committee has yet to tackle thorny questions about who should be covered by the federal protections and whether the bill should allow patients to sue health plans for damages.

Clinton called the meeting to help lawmakers work through their differences and stress that this legislation was one of his top priorities, administration officials said.