Norwood Breaks Ranks over Patients Bill of Rights

June 13, 2001 ( - A day before senior administration officials were scheduled to meet with the chief sponsors of a patients' bill of rights, Representative Charlie Norwood (R - Georgia) broke ranks with President Bush in support of the legislation opposed by the White House after attempts at a compromise stalled.

The development bolstered prospects for passage of the bill, which would grant patients the right to sue health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and other health plans for decisions about treatment that result in injury or death.

The Bush administration has threatened to veto it, arguing that allowing jury awards of up to $5 million in federal court and unlimited punitive damages under state law, would lead to increases in health insurance costs.

Instead, President Bush has lent support to an alternative bill that would limit state suits while capping pain and suffering awards to $500,000 in federal court and not allowing punitive damages.

Though Norwood helped craft the original bill the congressman had agreed to withhold his formal sponsorship at the president’s urging, in the hope of reaching a compromise.

– Camilla Klein