Sacramento Bee: Bush vs. California: Patients' bill undermines state protections
According to the official scorers in Washington, passing the House's limp version of a patients' bill of rights was a victory for President Bush. But where there are winners, there are losers, too, and in this case they are Californians. The House bill actually would weaken the state system that protects patients against unreasonable denial of care by their health plans.
The House version of the bill makes Californians worse off, by pre-empting the state's new system of medical review.
And that matters even more than all the theological discussion in Congress over suing health plans. When an HMO wrongly denies care, a patient should be able to sue to recover damages. But what the patient needs even more than a court date is a way to quickly reverse the HMO's decision before he dies or gets sicker. California law, which created a system of external independent reviews when treatment is denied and a new agency, the Department of Managed Health Care, to regulate health plans and manage the process, has done just that.