Gore Pushes Patients' Bill

al gore speaking before Democratic Convention - fists
Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman say all Americans are entitled to a patients' bill of rights that sets minimum standards of care, and they're challenging George W. Bush to offer the same.

Gore and Lieberman were pushing their idea at a rally Thursday, the culmination of a weeklong focus on health care issues for the Democratic ticket.

In remarks prepared for the rally, he said, "There's an emergency in America all right, and it's the lack of a strong enforceable patients' bill of rights."

In a new television ad, he says such a bill is needed "to take the medical decisions away from the HMOs and insurance companies and give them back to the doctors and nurses."

"A lot of times some bean counter behind a computer terminal, who doesn't have a license to practice medicine and doesn't have a right to play God, will overrule the doctor's orders," Gore says in the ad, which was taped during a campaign stop in Bellevue, Iowa.

Gore has said he eventually would like to see universal health care for all in the United States and Gore aides believe they have a potent issue with health care.

The Bush campaign counters that the Republican governor already has enacted a patients' bill of rights in Texas that is considered a model by the American Medical Association.

"The fact that Governor Bush signed comprehensive patient protection legislation three years ago and the Clinton-Gore administration continues to choose partisanship over progress underscores why there is a leadership gap in this election," said Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett.

The Gore-Lieberman proposal makes several guarantees, among them that:

  • People have access to hospital emergency room care and specialists if necessary.

  • Medical decisions are made by doctors, not insurance companies or health maintenance organizations.

  • Doctors can tell patients about all options, not just the least expensive ones.

  • Medical records are kept private, and health insurers and employers cannot discriminate against people based on genetic information that is now becoming available through human genome mapping.

  • People can appeal a decision to deny coverage made by their health plans and sue their health plans.

A significant piece of the Texas bill of rights legislation, giving patients the right the sue insurance companies, became law without Bush's signature.

Among the Texas law's provisions:

  • Patients can appeal denials of care to an independent review panel and in some cases, sue their HMO if they are hurt because the HMO denied or delayed the approval of treatment.

  • Women have direct access to their obstetrician and gynecologist and are covered for a minimum of 48 hours in the hospital after giving birth.

  • Employees have the right to choose their own doctor, even outside their health plan, so long as they are willing to pay aditional costs of that coverage.

  • People have access to their own specialists.

  • Final medical decisions must be made by doctors, not HMOs.

  • In emergencies, HMOs by law must make decisions about coverage within two hours.