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Special Event

Senator John McCain Announces Support for Patients' Bill of Rights

Aired February 6, 2001 - 10:18 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go right to Washington. We're standing by to see John McCain sign onto Senator Kennedy's plan for a patients' bill of rights.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: ... outline a bipartisan compromise for finally providing comprehensive, reasonable patient protections for Americans enrolled in HMOs.

We've developed a plan that puts aside partisan politics and allows us to begin the dialogue necessary for passing a bipartisan bill this year that provides patients with the health care protections that they deserve and want.

Our nation has been -- if I may use the word -- patiently waiting for many years. Too many years, Congress has failed to pass a patients' bill of rights that will grant American families enrolled in HMOs the health care protections they deserve, including the right to sue if they are harmed and all other methods for resolution have been exhausted.

For too long, achievement of this vital reform has been frustrated by special interest gridlock. The fact that we have not moved forward on this issue is a compelling argument for campaign finance reform. That's why each of us up here began working a long time ago to find a middle ground. It's certainly not been an easy or quick task, but one that is essential if we want to pass real reform with support from both sides of the aisle that can be signed into law by President Bush.

The proposal we have crafted, we believe, is an important starting pointed for a meaningful bipartisan debate and passage of an HMO reform bill that provide patients with the health care protections they deserve, without promoting frivolous lawsuits or unnecessary liability for employers.

The bill does not preempt existing state laws. It provides basic medical protection for all Americans. It provides access to appropriate health services, protects employers from liabilities, and helps patients get the medical care they need, rather than generating excessive and frivolous litigation. We don't have time to wait any longer for reform. Under today's medical system, too many Americans feel powerless when faced with a health care crisis in their personal life.

Each day, month and year that reforms are postponed just exacerbates the problems facing patients. We look forward to working with President Bush, with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to pass a meaningful patients' bill of rights this year.

Could I also mention, as I introduce Senator Edwards, we've worked for well over a year negotiating the very difficult aspects of this issue? We basically had an agreement last October on this HMO patients' bill of rights, but we really ran out of time and didn't feel that we could introduce it at that time.

We continue to negotiate, and we think we have a product that will serve as a basis for negotiation, for debate, and final enactment of legislation. The American people have waited too long -- Senator Edwards.

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: Thank you. John.

HARRIS: There was the word that we've been waiting for this morning, word that Senator John McCain is now throwing his hat in the ring and joining support for Senator Ted Kennedy's plan for a bill for patients' rights.

He says the bill, as it is composed right now, does not preempt state laws and does not set the stage for frivolous litigation, reasons that have been used in the past to lock the issue up in committee for at least the past year or so. We'll keep around this story as it develops throughout the day.

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