Wise, Dems petition House to bring back patient-rights bill

June 23, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., is among the Democrats trying to force a vote on "patients' bill of rights" legislation currently tied up in the House and in the Senate.

A frustrated Wise said the Republican leadership has turned the issue of health care reform into a political football that it refuses to put into play.

"I want to bring these proposals to the floor for a vote, not keep it bottled up forever in committee," Wise said Wednesday.

One Tri-State Republican across the aisle from Wise said it is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are playing politics with the issue.


"We're doing all the right things and the Democrats are desperate for a campaign issue," U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., said.

Bartlett said House leadership had promised to bring health care reform to the floor by the end of July.

"Americans need to hear the debate between the Republican and Democrat proposals," Bartlett said.

The Democrats are trying to enact protections for patients in managed-care and other heath plans, including proposals that would allow people to go to the nearest emergency room without fear of their insurance company denying payment; provide coverage for experimental treatments; and give people the opportunity to appeal denials of medical care and sue insurance carriers for wrongfully denying care.

"People need access to the type of care they deserve," Wise said. "It shouldn't be up to a faceless bureaucrat denying their decisions."

The biggest difference between the proposals is the ease with which people can sue insurance carriers under the Democratic plan, Bartlett said.

"The Democrats assume you can get better health care by seeing a lawyer than by seeing a doctor," he said.

Wise on Wednesday signed a parliamentary move known as a "discharge petition" that would force all bills, including the health care proposals, out of committee and into the full House.

The petition had more than 100 signatures Wednesday evening but would need 218 to succeed, Wise said.

A similar discharge petition was started a few months ago for a campaign finance bill and is currently 10 signatures short of the requirement, Wise said.

If that bill gets 10 more members of the House to sign on, it would automatically bring the health care issue to the floor with it.

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