The bill proposed by Democrats would force HMOs to pay for reasonable emergency room care, give patients a choice of doctors, and allow women direct access to obstetricians and gynecologists. It also would give patients the right to sue and collect damages when HMOs withhold treatment.
Republicans argue those measures would be too expensive and in fact, would force employers to drop coverage. They'll offer their own package of new controls on managed-care plans.
On CBS Face the Nation Sunday, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa, said the Democratic proposal is overkill. But Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, rejected claims that her side's bill is too expensive.
Said Santorum, "I can tell you that if patients are allowed to sue the employer for a decision an insurance company makesÂ…most corporations in America will drop their insurance and go to a plan that says, 'Here's your money. You buy your own insurance, because we are not going to be liable for a decision made by an insurance company.'"
|Sen. Dianne Feinstein|
Face the Nation Anchor Bob Schieffer cited the salaries of people who run the HMOs, including Steven Wiggins, chairman and CEO of Oxford Health Plan ($30 million a year excluding stock options), and asked Santorum if, when chief executives make that much money, could the HMOs not do more to help the patients they serve?
|Sen. Rick Santorum|
In anicipation of this week's Senate debate on the bill, business and insurance groups are running $750,000 worth of ads aimed at swaying Republican senators to vote against it.
The radio and television ads are running in five states where Republican senators are up for re-election next year. The goal is to ward off temptations for the five to vote for some of the more popular Democratic amendments that will be offered in the Senate debate.