June 8, 2000
Consumers Union’s Washington, DC Office
Washington – The following is a statement from Adrienne Hahn, senior counsel at Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports:
Consumers Union urges the Senate to pass the Bipartisan Consensus Managed Care Improvement Act of 1999 (i.e. Norwood/Dingell bill) without the so-called access provisions that drive up healthcare costs NOW. Americans from across the country have made it clear that they want to see Congress pass meaningful and comprehensive patient protection legislation as embodied in the Norwood/Dingell bill.
Specifically, consumers are clamoring for patient protections that ensure managed care plans will be held legally accountable in court for egregious actions that result in injury or death. The ability of a consumer to hold a managed care plan accountable for sub-standard healthcare that results in injury is essential. Compensation to injured consumers acts as an important counter-balance to financial incentives to increase profits through undertreatment of patients. In fact, the effectiveness of other reforms would be seriously diluted if managed care remains immunized from responsibility for delivery of sub-standard care.
Americans need access to a neutral appeals process, if care is denied. Today, many consumers are trapped within their health plan, which is totally in control of treatment decisions. The result: consumers risk not getting the medical care they need when bottom-line considerations, not medical appropriateness, have undue influence on decision-making. A truly independent external appeals process acts as a safety valve to ensure that consumers receive the appropriate care when a plan wrongly denies care.
Equally important, the Norwood/Dingell bill provides patient protections for all Americans with private health insurance coverage whom are currently enrolled in managed care systems. Simply put, the Norwood/Dingell bill puts an end to the current federal and state patchwork of laws.
With only a few legislative days left in the calendar, the time is ripe for Congress to act and pass meaningful managed care reform as embodied in the Norwood/Dingell bill.
Consumers Union, Publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumers. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers.