Articles

Weekly Address: The Patients Bill of Rights and Health Reform

September 27, 2019


The President:
Over the past few decades, there has been an intense struggle in Washington between the lobbyists
for the insurance industry and the interests of the American
people over what’s been called a Patient’s Bill of Rights
— a set of rules to protect Americans from some of the
worst practices of the health insurance industry; rules to ensure that all Americans are getting the care they need from their doctors and the care they deserve from their
insurance companies. The last time a Patient’s Bill
of Rights was within reach was roughly a decade ago, and it
was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, from
Ted Kennedy to John McCain. It included the right to an
appeals process so you could challenge an unfair decision by
an insurance company before a third party. It included the right to
choose your own doctor. It included the right to access
information about what your health insurance
plan means for you. And it called for a new level
of transparency so that patients would know if their doctor had
a conflict of interest when providing services. Now, this Patient’s Bill of
Rights never made it into law. It fell victim —
again and again — to the same special interest
lobbying that has blocked passage of health insurance
reform for so many decades. But today, we’re being given
another chance to make it a reality, because each of
these rights, and many more, are incorporated in the health
insurance reform bill that recently passed the House of
Representatives and in the bill that is currently making
its way through the Senate. Both the House and the Senate bills would make it against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage on the basis of a pre-existing
condition or illness. Both would stop insurers from
charging exorbitant premiums on the basis of age,
health, or gender. Both would prevent insurance
companies from dropping your coverage when you get sick. And both would put a limit on
how much you have to pay out of pocket for the treatments you
need in a year or lifetime. Simply put, the protections
currently included in both the health insurance reform bill
passed by the House and the version currently on the Senate
floor would represent the toughest measures we’ve ever
taken to hold the insurance industry accountable. Anyone who says otherwise
simply hasn’t read the bills. Just open these proposals at
random and you’ll find on almost any page patient protections
that dwarf any of those passed by Congress in at
least a decade. These protections are just one
part of a landmark reform that will finally reduce the
cost of health care. When it becomes law, families
will save on their premiums. Small businesses and Americans
who don’t get any insurance today through their employers
will no longer be forced to pay punishingly high
rates to get coverage. This legislation will also
strengthen Medicare and extend the life of the program, while
saving senior citizens hundreds of dollars a year in
prescription costs. And reforms to target
waste, inefficiency, and price-gouging by the
insurance industry will help make this the largest deficit
reduction plan in over a decade. The insurance industry
knows all this. That’s why they’re at it again,
using their muscle in Washington to try to block a vote that
they know they will lose. They’re lobbying. They’re running ads. They’re spending millions of
dollars to kill health insurance reform, just like they’ve
done so many times before. They want to preserve a system
that works better for the insurance industry than it
does for the American people. But now — for the first time — there is a clear majority in the Senate that’s willing to stand up to the insurance lobby and embrace lasting health insurance reforms that have eluded us for generations. The question is whether the
minority that opposes these reforms will continue to use
parliamentary maneuvers to try and stop the Senate
from voting on them. Whatever their position on
health insurance reform, Senators ought to allow
an up or down vote. Let’s bring this long and
vigorous debate to an end. Let’s deliver on the promise of
health insurance reforms that will make our people healthier,
our economy stronger, and our future more secure. And as this difficult
year comes to a close, let’s show the American people
that we are equal to the task of meeting our great challenges. Thanks for listening, and on
behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and Bo, happy holidays,
from our family to yours.

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