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Statement of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

Friday, June 22, 2001

Statement of Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the "urgent need to pass real patient protections."

We're here today because it's time to pass a real patients' bill of rights. I am glad to stand with so many doctors, nurses, and patients--the heroes in America's health care system. You represent the millions of Americans who have been shortchanged by their HMOs--those who have been denied access to a specialist to treat cancer, or who had to call their HMO before calling 911.

I am so pleased to stand with Republicans and Democrats who support this bill--Congressman Norwood, Congressman Dingell, Congressman Ganske, Senator McCain, Senator Edwards, and Senator Harkin, and finally our new great leader in the United States Senate Tom Daschle.

Our bipartisan bill is the only patients rights bill that has the support of over 500 groups representing millions of patient, doctors and nurses. And most important, ours is the bill that gives patients the rights they need and deserve.

Make no mistake, our opponents are fighting us tooth and nail. The insurance companies are running their misleading ads and their lobbyists are going door to door to oppose us. Every United States Senator is going to have to make a decision--do they stand with powerful HMOs or America's patients?

Every day, 50,000 patients have added pain and suffering because of their HMOs have denied them proper care--every single day. The list has grown too long.

Let me tell you a story about Florence Corcoran from Louisiana. She was in the middle of a high risk pregnancy when her HMO denied her doctor's recommendation for hospitalization. She got a second opinion and they denied it again. During the last month of her pregnancy, the baby went into distress and because she had been denied monitors and hospital supervision-the baby did not survive. Our current system left her without a real remedy. This is unacceptable.

You should have the right to see a specialist; you should have a right to go to the nearest emergency room; you should have the right to a fair appeal when your HMO makes a decision that you or your doctor believe is wrong; you should not have to switch doctors in the middle of a pregnancy or a cancer treatment. And you should be able to hold your HMO accountable when it makes a decision that harms you.

Its time for doctors and nurses to make medical decisions instead of HMOs. It's time to put patients ahead of profits. It's time to pass a strong enforceable patients' bill of rights.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company


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