The US Senate began a serious debate today: Should the long-stalled patients' bill of rights contain a strong provision allowing patients to sue their HMOs?
President Bush said today that if it does, he'll veto it.
CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer reports on "The Real Deal" from Capitol Hill.
The president's veto threat came just 1 hour after Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of North Dakota said he saw signs that a compromise might be possible.
Ironically, as supporters pointed out during yet another Capitol rally, there is bipartisan agreement on most of the bill--such things as giving patients the right to visit emergency rooms, pediatricians, and gynecologists without the permission of their HMO.
But reformers want to give patients who are denied coverage the right to sue their HMOs in state courts. That's the hang-up. Most Republicans believe that would just drive up costs. They want to cap damages and try the cases in federal court. Reformers respond that the process would take too long, since federal dockets are already so crowded.
So when House Republican leaders said they could envision circumstances where patients should be allowed to sue in state courts, Daschle called it "encouraging news."
Democrats say they believe they have the votes to pass this bill in the House and Senate, but the healthcare and insurance lobbies are really pouring on the pressure now. Whether the bill becomes law will apparently depend on the president.
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