[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 31, 1998]
[Page 480]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Letter to Congressional Leaders on Patients' Bill of Rights Legislation
March 31, 1998

Dear __________:
    I am writing to commend you on the Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 
1998 that you are introducing today on behalf of the Democratic Caucuses 
of both Houses of Congress. This bill represents a critically important 
step towards enacting a long overdue ``Patients' Bill of Rights'' that 
Americans need to renew their confidence in the nation's rapidly 
changing health care system.
    States across the nation have already begun to enact reasonable 
patient protections. In fact, 44 states, including 28 of the 32 states 
with Republican Governors, have passed at least one of the protections 
that my Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality 
recommended, and that I endorsed last year. However, a patchwork of non-
comprehensive state laws cannot provide Americans with adequate patient 
protections, particularly because state health care laws do not have 
jurisdiction over more than 100 million Americans. Federal standards are 
essential to assure that all patients get the protections they need.
    You have done a remarkable job bringing a broad-based coalition of 
Democrats together to move this important issue forward. I would 
particularly like to commend Senator Kennedy and Representative Dingell for 
their leadership in developing this legislation.
    The Patients' Bill of Rights Act of 1998 includes important patient 
protections, such as the right to emergency care wherever and whenever a 
medical emergency arises; the right to talk freely with doctors and 
nurses about all the medical options available, not only the cheapest; 
and the right to an internal and external appeals process that allows 
patients to address their concerns and grievances. I am particularly 
pleased that it includes every protection recommended by the Advisory 
Commission. This bill also improves on other patients' rights 
legislation before the Congress because it does not include expensive 
protections for health care providers that have the potential to 
increase premiums excessively.
    The bill you are introducing today provides a critical step towards 
developing bipartisan legislation that will pass the Congress. I look 
forward to working with the Congress to enact a ``Patients' Bill of 
Rights'' Act that I can sign into law this year.
    I am confident that, working in a bipartisan fashion, the Congress 
will produce a bill that achieves the important balance of providing 
patients the protections they need without undermining health care 
affordability. We must ensure that whether they have traditional care or 
managed care, Americans have access to quality care. Thank you again for 
your strong leadership and commitment to this end.

                                                      William J. Clinton

Note: Identical letters were sent to Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. 
Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt. An original was 
not available for verification of the content of this letter.