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HMO Bill of Rights, Med Times Copyright, All Rights Reserved, 2004-2005

A recent Senate debate over the quality of managed health care has resulted in what is being called the "Patients’ Bill of Rights". Under the plan, patients would have the right to receive emergency room treatment and some specialist service care without prior approval from insurers, and patients would also have the right to sue insurance companies for the denial of care. The republicans predict that such demands on the insurance companies would increase health insurance costs; subsequently forcing employers to drop health benefits. The republicans, therefore, call for a lesser demand upon the health care organizations by removing the proposal for patients right to sue insurance companies for malpractice. The democrats support the bill on its full merit but feel that the likelihood of it being passed in the House is not good.

If this medical ‘bill of rights’ is to have any effect upon the HMO’s, patients need to have the right to sue. The only way to cut into the financial immunity of these institutions is to not only hold them accountable for their actions but also to guard every life threatening decision in order to insure the quality and accessibility of medical care.

Only one in three Americans currently express confidence in HMO’s, according to the Health Care Agenda. Most of the anger is directed towards situations where workers with medical problems cannot switch jobs because their new insurer won’t cover their treatment. Other health insurance owners are angered that some insurance plans require prior approval for medical care, even in emergency situations, or they will refuse to pay.

The majority of the population (some 75 percent) favor the right to sue HMO’s for malpractice. However, 61 percent also feel that the increase in government regulation of health insurance plans would result in a subsequent increase in costs. How do we reconcile the increase in costs? In order to get the job done, money must be spent. The most likely target is the big business insurance companies. By ensuring that penalties will be enforced, insurance companies will be wary of being sued, and the likelihood that they will reach that stage of lawsuit will be reduced. In the end, costs will be lower than expected, and will be spent solely on patients' needs and not their grievances.

A ‘bill of rights’ for patients, can it happen? Will it be effective? The people are demanding it, the legislature is attempting to back it, and the insurance companies are running scared. Such legislation could mark a huge step for freedom across the board to demand better care for ourselves and for our families, no matter the financial position. The future of medicine may see control once again returning to the doctors, so that the shackles of bureaucracy may be removed and doctors could get back to simply saving lives.