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Finally a Patients' Bill of Rights?

There is a bipartisan move in Congress to revive what's called the "Patients' Bill of Rights." The legislation, opposed by the HMO lobby, would give millions of Americans more power to challenge decisions by their managed healthcare plans--including the right to sue.


So, is real reform any closer? CBS's Bob Schieffer on Capitol Hill has the facts for you.


This just won't go away. The lobby continues to fight it, but the public pressure to reform HMOs also continues to intensify. Today, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats said they believe they finally have the votes to pass a patients' bill of rights.


"After 4 long years of working, long hard years of working, we believe this will get us to the Rose Garden," says Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell.


Part of that confidence came because of the addition of a prominent new Republican supporter--Arizona Senator John McCain.


"For too long achievement of this vital reform has been frustrated by special interest gridlock," says McCain.


The president says he's happy about it, too, and during the campaign he endorsed a patients' bill of rights. But last night, Georgia's Republican congressman Charley Norwood, who sponsored last year's HMO reform bill, was called to the White House and was strongly urged not to join this year's coalition until the president "studies" the legislation.


Today, the president confirmed that he is worried the legislation doesn't go far enough in putting limits on the money patients could collect if they're allowed to sue an HMO.


"We can't have a patients' bill of rights that encourages and invites all kinds of lawsuits because the ultimate effect will be to run up the cost of business," says Bush.


The right to sue has always been the most controversial part of HMO reform. So by dark tonight, Democrats who were so confident this morning began to wonder if the White House plan is to support reform but water this bill down to the point that it has no teeth.

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