Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Pascrell Assails Passage in House of Weakened Managed Care Reform Measure

Aug 9, 2001
Press Release

Congressman joined by Senator Torricelli and Glen Ridge resident at press conference on Patients' Bill of Rights

PATERSON - Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., (D-NJ-8) held a press conference in Paterson on August 8th with Senator Robert G. Torricelli, (D-NJ) and Glen Ridge resident Victoria Leone to denounce the recent vote in the House of Representatives aimed at significantly weakening the bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights. The event, held at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, focused on the lawmakers' strong opposition to the Norwood Amendment to the Ganske-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights, crafted by Rep. Charlie Norwood, (R-GA) and President George W. Bush the day before the vote.  

Congressman Pascrell is an original cosponsor of the "Bipartisan Patient Protection Act of 2001, known now as H.R. 2563, the Ganske-Dingell "Patients' Bill of Rights."  Having passed the United States Senate as S-1054, the "Kennedy-McCain-Edwards bill, it would finally strike a needed bipartisan compromise to provide comprehensive patient protections for all Americans.   On August 2, President Bush and Representative  Norwood passed an Amendment to the Patients' Bill of Rights.  The Norwood Amendment effectively took the teeth out of the bill, stripping the measure of its tough HMO accountability provisions.

Victoria Leone joined the lawmakers in criticizing the attempt to weaken the Patients' Bill of Rights and told the audience of her personal struggle with an HMO during her husband Bob's battle with cancer.

"Unfortunately, the President and House Republicans demonstrated that their support for meaningful patient protections was nothing but hollow lip-service, and that their only real objective was to protect insurance companies. They went to the Floor of the people's House and turned their backs on the people in order to embrace the insurance companies, said Pascrell."

Victoria Leone spoke of how, in her view, her husband of 35 years lost his life at the hands of an HMO. She said her husband Bob's primary care physician would not refer him to a specialist or send him for tests after repeated requests for both. By the time he was tested, he had Stage-4 non-small cell cancer.  He died within a year.

"Bob died one year after finally being diagnosed too late to do anything about it.  He dies because the doctors and the hospitals had to cave in to what the HMO demanded," Leone said.  'The HMO put money before the patient's health and well being no matter what the doctor said."

"Good people like Vicki Leone should no longer have to suffer at the hands of insurance companies that care more about bottom lines than patients and their families.  I am so proud of her courage for stepping forward and joining our fight for a tough Patients Bill of Rights that will provide access to needed care and hold insurance companies accountable for their decisions," Pascrell said.

"The Norwood Amendment takes the very teeth of accountability out of the Patients' Bill of Rights we have worked several years to pass.  It even supercedes, rather than supplements, the recently enacted tough patient protection law in New Jersey.  The House passed an 'HMO Bill of Rights,' not a 'Patients' Bill of Rights,' and I'm going to keep fighting so that a real patient protection bill gets signed in to law, not a sham substitute that puts profits ahead of people," said Pascrell.

"We all agree that patients should have access to emergency rooms, specialists, clinical trials, continuity of care, and the medical advice of their own physician. I cannot, however, support any bill that fails to hold HMO's appropriately accountable when its arbitrary decision to delay or deny treatment results in tragic consequences for a patient."