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Will A "Patients' Bill of Rights" and New Medicare Reform Proposal Guarantee the Right to Contract?

News Alert
March 11, 1999

WASHINGTON, D.C. - While some members of Congress are proclaiming they want to give Americans a "patients' bill of rights," others are trying to take away our limited right to privately contract for medical services.

A bill was recently introduced (H.R. 958) that calls for a prohibition on Medicare private contracts. This prohibition would strip seniors of their basic right to pay privately for the doctors of their choice. It would also force seniors to share their medical claims' records with government bureaucrats.

"Congress and the Medicare Commission need to examine the Medicare private contracting issue," says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "Sixty-four percent of Americans believe seniors should be allowed to sign private contracts with their doctors. If any patients' rights are going to be guaranteed this year, Congress should make sure Americans are free to privately contract for the medical care of their choice."

The Medicare Commission is currently examining "premium supports" as a way to give seniors more choices. Under the premiums support system, seniors would be given a choice of health plans--similar to how the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) currently works.

However, there is a great distinction between the proposed Medicare premium support plan and FEHBP. Under FEHBP, government employees and members of Congress are free to go outside of their insurance plans and pay privately for their medical care. Yet, seniors in Medicare don't have this freedom. "That's why Congress and the Medicare Commission should carefully examine the private contracting issue," says Blevins.

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