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President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry

THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK

Friday, February 20, 1998

PRESIDENT CLINTON:
PATIENTS' BILL OF RIGHTS

"The Patients' Bill of Rights is the next important step we must take to ensure that every American family has the quality health care it needs to thrive. This is especially important as our health care system changes to meet the needs of an emerging new economy. I believe that we have an obligation to give Americans the tools to meet these challenges -- and to make sure that whether they have traditional care or managed care, all Americans have quality care."

President Bill Clinton

Today, the President releases an Executive Memorandum directing all Federal health plans, which serve over 85 million Americans, to come into substantial compliance with the President's Quality Commission's Consumer Bill of Rights. The Executive Memorandum follows a report that the Vice President forwarded to the President on the current status of compliance with the Consumer Bill of Rights. The President also reissues his challenge to Congress to pass legislation that assures that these patients' bill of rights will become the law of the land for all Americans.

Patients' Bill of Rights. The nation's health care system is undergoing significant change. Many Americans worry that these changes may reduce their health care options and lower the standards of care. A Patients' Bill of Rights should give Americans much needed protections, including:

  • Guaranteed Access To Needed Health Care Providers to ensure that patients are provided appropriate high quality care.
  • Access to Emergency Services when and where the need arises.
  • Confidentiality of Medical Records to ensure that individually identifiable medical information is not disseminated and to provide consumers the right to access and amend their own medical records.
  • Grievance and Appeals Processes for consumers to resolve their differences with their health plans and health care providers.

America's Federal Health Programs Are Leaders In Providing Patient Protections. Although citing some shortcomings, the Vice President's report on the compliance status of Federal health programs with the Consumer Bill of Rights concludes that Federal health plans (including Medicare, Medicaid, Indian Health Service, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the Department of Defense Military Health Program, and the Veteran's Health Program) are already largely in compliance. This finding illustrates that implementing consumer protections to help Americans navigate through a changing health care system, can be and has been done without excessive costs or regulations.

Directing Federal Agencies To Accomplish Even More. Although the Federal government is taking a leading role to assure consumer protections are in place, the Vice President's report concluded it has the authority to do more. The President is issuing an Executive Memorandum to ensure that Federal programs come into substantial compliance with the Consumer Bill of Rights by no later than next year.

Challenging Congress To Pass Federally-Enforceable Patient's Bill Of Rights This Year. The President renews his call to Congress to pass a patients bill of rights this year. The Vice President's report underscores that most consumer protections cannot be assured to patients in private health plans without additional legislation. Without this legislation, the millions of Americans in private health plans will never be assured these protections.

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Last Revised: Friday, June 19, 1998

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