Dems Ready to Debate PBOR, GOP To Study Last Minute Changes

June 19, 2001 ( - The Senate is expected to take up the patients' bill of rights today, but Senate Republicans yesterday were threatening to hold up debate, citing concerns about last-minute changes by Democrats.

Those changes would:

  • shield physicians from liability in most cases so long as they played a limited role in a health plan’s decision-making
  • protect insurance agents
  • require patients to demonstrate (rather than merely “allege”) harm before being able to bypass the review and go straight to court

Difference of Degree

While Democrats described the changes, made late last week, as “technical” adjustments, though Senate minority leader Trent Lott called them “substantive.” Still, Lott’s spokesman said Republicans were likely to let debate on the Kennedy-McCain bill proceed once “senators feel comfortable with the fine print,” according to the Associated Press.

Still, business groups, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress oppose the bill in its current form, concerned that it could result in a flood of frivolous lawsuits ? increasing health care costs by permitting jury awards of up to $5 million in federal court as well as unlimited punitive damages under state laws.

According to the American Benefits Council, debate on the bill is expected to be lengthy, perhaps continuing until the Senate breaks for its Independence Day recess on June 29.

Employer Concerns

A group of trade associations has expressed concerns with the McCain-Kennedy bill in a letter to members of congress. The groups include:

  • The National Federation of Independent Business
  • National Association of Manufacturers
  • US Chamber of Commerce
  • National Retail Federation
  • Printing Industries of America
  • Rubber Manufacturers Association
  • The ERISA Industry Committee
  • National Employee Benefits Institute
  • Food Marketing Institute
  • Food Distributors International
  • The Business Roundtable
  • American Benefits Council
  • National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
  • National Restaurant Association
  • Associated Builders and Contractors
  • International Mass Retail Association
  • National Association of Convenience Stores
  • Society for Human Resource Management
  • Associated General Contractors of America


A copy of the letter can be found here

Note: the McCain-Kennedy Patients? Bill of Rights is now S. 1052.