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Patients' Rights Bill Hits Republican Snag

The Patients' Bill of Rights, one that includes the right to sue an HMO, just took a sudden turn for the worse in Congress. CBS's Bob Schieffer has the details.

House Republican leaders postponed a vote on a patients' bill of rights when they realized the version they favor was about to lose and the version they oppose, which gives patients the right to sue, was about to pass.

"We consider this so important in the lives of the American people that we will take whatever time it takes to get it right," says Representative Dick Armey (Republican, Texas).

That's one way to put it, but reformers translate it another way.

"I think it means the Republican leadership doesn't have the votes for their bill," says Representative Greg Ganske (Republican, Iowa).

And that's the deal. Ganske, himself a doctor, and a bipartisan group of House members believe they have the votes to pass the broad reform legislation that passed the Senate--a bill that gives patients the right to sue their HMOs in state courts.

House Republican leaders have opposed that from the start and the president has threatened to veto such legislation. They want a more limited bill that makes it much harder for patients to sue.

"I laid out the principles that would allow me to sign a bill and I still stand by those principles," says President Bush.

If the reforms had passed, the president would have faced an unsavory choice--back off his threat or veto legislation that has wide public support.

So Republican leaders decided to bury the bill rather than allow it to come to a vote. That means the reforms are dead for now. But Ganske believes public pressure will eventually force the White House and Congress to pass them.

"Unlike campaign finance reform, which was sort of low on the public perception list, this is an issue that even our own Republican pollsters this morning are telling us is right at the top of the list of what the public is looking at," says Ganske.

If Ganske is right, look for the Patients' Bill of Rights to rise from the grave sometime this fall. The reformers believe that if they can hold the votes they have and if public pressure forces House leaders to allow a vote, the Patients' Bill of Rights will finally pass.
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