Norwood Reintroduces Original Bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patient's Bill of Rights

Date: Feb. 12, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

Norwood Reintroduces Original Bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patient's Bill of Rights

The original bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patient's Bill of Rights has been reintroduced in the 110th Congress by its original author, U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, DDS(R-GA). The Bipartisan Consensus Managed Care Improvement Act of 2007, HR 979, would restore the right of American patients' to hold federally-governed health plans liable in a state court of law for medical decisions and improper denials of care that cause injury or death. Americans were stripped of that historic common-law right by Congress in 1974 by passage that year of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.

Norwood, currently receiving hospice care for non-small cell lung cancer at his Augusta, Georgia home, ordered the 1999 House-approved legislation reintroduced without change, knowing his original co-author, U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) is now House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, and can be relied on to safely update the bill as necessary without sacrificing patient protections. Norwood acknowledged he will not be able to further impact debate on the legislation, but was confidant Chairman Dingell and other original supporters would see the bill passed into law this session.

The former dentist wrote on December 13 that the new Democratic majority has a real opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation into law that has been deadlocked in the past, by targeting efforts on broadly supported issues among both parties such as a patients' bill of rights. "The original bipartisan Patient's Bill of Rights from the 107th Congress, HR 2723, would be a good start," Norwood said, "restoring Americans' historic right to hold health insurers responsible for damages from breach of contract in state court."

Norwood wrote, "that bill, which I authored and sponsored along with U.S. Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and Greg Ganske (R-IA) in 1998, passed the House in 1999 by an overwhelming 275-151 bipartisan margin, only to be stonewalled by a Republican Senate. It passed a Democratic Senate in 2001 by a substantial 59-41 bipartisan margin, only to die after my attempt to amend the bill to avoid a Presidential veto failed. Now we have a new mix, and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate that has publicly supported the bill in the past. There is no reason we can't pass the original, un-compromised bill with a veto-proof majority. Among the incoming members of the new House this January, 176 voted for that bill in 1999, and only 75 voted against it. At the last poll, the Patient's Bill of Rights had an 82% public approval rating. If the Democrats can use their new majority to pull that off, they will and should score big with the public."