Politics and the upcoming presidential election may very well doom any major patients-rights legislation this year.
At press time, a House bill was stuck in a committee meat grinder. The Senate, without a single Democratic vote, passed a Republican-sponsored bill that President Clinton vowed to veto and Vice President Al Gore promised to use against the GOP in his campaign.
The Senate debate illustrated the divide between the parties on health care. The GOP bill provides for external appeals and prudent layperson, and grants direct access to Ob/ Gyns. Republicans shut off Democrats' attempt to guarantee access to specialists, and killed a Democratic amendment that would hold HMOs liable for refusing to pay for medically necessary care.
Republican Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island fashioned a last-minute compromise that was ignored by both sides, suggesting that for this issue, it's going to be either all — or, very possibly — nothing.