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Special Event

Democratic Senators Call for Patients' Bill of Rights

Aired March 21, 2001 - 12:13 p.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Earlier today, we heard President Bush talk about his version of a patients' bill of rights. It has caused some reaction from some senators up on Capitol Hill.

Right now, let's go ahead and listen to Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: ... are the HMOs. And my question is is the president really going to veto a real bipartisan patient protection bill that's supported by all the health care groups who've supported the patients' bill of right? At some point, the president has to make a decision: Does he stand with the HMOs, or does stand with patients and doctors? All of the patients and doctors support our legislation. It's time to quit talking about this. It's time to actually get something done -- Senator Kennedy.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Every single day that goes by without an effective patients' bill of rights, there are 59,000 Americans that are suffering needlessly. There are some 35,000 Americans every single day that are being denied specialists, which they need in order to meet their difficulties, their health challenges. We know there are more than 18,000 Americans every single day that are not getting the prescription drugs that they need, which are so important so that they can regain their health. That is happening every single day.

It's been five years since the first patients' bill of rights has been introduced. It has been five long weeks that we have waited in the Congress and in the Senate for the president to work with us so that we can fashion a bill that will be in the interest of the patients and not in the interest of the HMO industry.

Now, bipartisan talk is fine. But just bipartisan talk without action is not going to help the children that need the specialists, the women that need the kinds of clinical trials because of breast cancer -- the kinds of needs which are out there for American families. What we need is action.

And we believe that the only way to get the action is to schedule this legislation. We call on our leaders, Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senator Daschle, to schedule this prior to the Memorial Day recess. Nothing's more important for members of the Senate. Memorial Day recess is not more important to the members of Congress. Schedule this legislation, take it to the floor of the United States Senate, and let's fashion the kind of bill and send it to the president. We'll ask for his help and support and we'll ask for his intervention to get a legislation.

But we've waited too long, and Americans are suffering. The time for action is now. Every single medical group in America has supported our program. Republicans and Democrats alike had worked effectively to pass this legislation in the House of Representatives.

We are eager to pass this legislation in the Senate of the United States. And we are going to insist that our leadership schedule this so that we can have the full and complete debate on this and get the action that the American people deserve. That is what this is called for.

I welcome the chance...

KAGAN: We took time to listen to some Democratic senators from Capitol Hill talking about a proposed patients' bill of rights out there -- this in response to what President Bush had to say earlier today.

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