- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2001

The American Association of Health Plans (AAHP) shows no shame in its March 27 Op-Ed column, "First, do no harm." More than three-quarters of the American people support a strong patients bill of rights, including the right to sue health plans when they harm patients. A majority of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress support it, and President Bush supports it. Only the health plans trade association is still shamelessly trying to cloud the issue and slow progress toward making its industry accountable to patients.

AAHP has the audacity to pretend it speaks for patients, saying that consumers want "a system in place that enables them to resolve coverage disputes quickly and fairly, allowing them to get the health care they need, when they need it." This is exactly what American Medical Association (AMA) and other patients´ rights supporters have been working for for the past seven years. It´s also exactly what AAHP has been fighting against with multi-million-dollar advertising and lobbying campaigns.

Doctors, shoemakers, bread bakers, indeed, all other workers in the United States accept legal accountability when their actions harm others. Only health plans have a special exemption from the responsibility the rest of us must accept. Worst of all, there is nothing to protect vulnerable patients from health insurers so intent on adding to their bottom line that they will harm patients by delaying or denying needed health care.

AAHP is absolutely right on one count it would be shameful to get bogged down in partisanship on this issue. If AAHP would stop clouding the issue, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle could move forward and do what they know is right and pass a strong patients´ bill of rights.


THOMAS R. REARDON

Immediate past president

American Medical Association

Chicago

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