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Compromise Deal on Patients' Bill of Rights in Place

The action is picking up fast on the Patients' Bill of Rights. A deal between President Bush and Congress is not done, there are no votes yet, but a late White House meeting today put the pieces in place for a plan that includes many of the most controversial provisions popular among Americans.

The compromise is said to include a right to sue your HMO. It couldn't have been more dramatic: The president came into the White House briefing room and at his side was Congressman Charley Norwood, who is the author of the Patients’ Bill of Rights. The president said he would veto it because it gives patients the right to sue HMOS, but the president said they had worked out their differences.

"I wanted a bill, a bill that was good for patients, a bill that allowed for people to be able to air their grievances, a bill that did not encourage frivolous lawsuits," said President Bush.

Norwood, who has fought for years to give patients the right to sue their HMOs, said the deal he agreed to was one all sides could live with.

"The bottom line and the goal is, we want to change the law, and the last time I looked, that’s pretty difficult to do without the presidential signature. It was a situation where we had to keep talking through this thing, where we could get the president satisfied and willing to sign it, but at the same time abide by the principles that we started out to do," said Norwood.

Now there are no official details yet, but we have learned some of what they agreed to. Patients will be allowed to sue their insurance companies in state courts. Companies that run their own HMO plans can be sued only in federal courts and there will be a limit on punitive damages of $1_ million.

The interesting part is that the other sponsors of the HMO legislation say that Norwood cut this deal on his own. They were totally blindsided by it. They say they will know no details until they get a briefing from Norwood.
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