|Fresh from their Fourth of July recess, the Senate yesterday began
floor consideration of a Patient’s Bill of Rights -- a debate that
foreshadows election year 2000 campaign themes. The Democrats have been
pushing for a vote on their bill, S.
6 - sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and
31 co-sponsors, that would enhance the ability of patients in managed care
plans to have more control over the care they receive.
S. 6 would allow for unrestricted emergency room use, access to out-of-network care providers, standing referrals to specialists and the freedom to designate a specialist (such as an ob/gyn doctor) as their primary care physician. Managed care health consumers may also sue their Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) or Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) if they have been denied services or not been reimbursed properly.
For women, the Democrats’ bill contains a number of features that are of special importance, such as assuring easier access to specialty care and to clinical trials, guaranteeing that women are who are pregnant or terminally ill can continue under the care of a specialist even if that physician is dropped from the patient’s plan; providing for the collection and distribution of data concerning how well the plan is meeting women’s health needs, and assuring that plans do not discriminate against either patients or providers on the basis of sex or other characteristics.
Aligned against the Democratic bill is an array of health insurance companies and related business interests who have poured millions of dollars into ads and campaign contributions. Anxious to fend of any reform proposals that may cut into the “bottom line,” lobbyists for these special interests have been working overtime to assure that no meaningful patient’s bill of rights is get passed. The legislation is likely to be the most important health care measure considered in the 106th Congress, despite the fact that its gains are modest and some 40 million persons still have no health insurance coverage at all.
Republicans are promoting their own, much less stringent version, the Patient’s Bill of Rights Plus Act (S. 326 - Sponsored by Sen.Trent Lott (R-MS) and 49 co-sponsors). They claim that S. 6 would cost too much and force businesses to drop health coverage for employees. However, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that the impact on health care costs would be minimal, only adding as little as 4% over ten years amounting to a $2 per month increase in premium costs.
A last minute surprise move by Senate Majority Leader Lott placed the
Democrats’ version of the bill on the calendar first, rather than the Republican
version. This was a move that still has analysts scratching their
heads, but some believe that the strategy is designed to push the Democrats
to amend S. 6 in order to force certain votes, thereby weaken their own
bill. In the early part of the debate, several key Democratic provisions
were defeated, including one allowing women to select an ob-gyn doctor
as their primary care provider.
|NOTE:||Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) will be offering an amendment which would
require HMOs and other private health insurance plans to provide coverage
for routine domestic violence screening, documentation, information and
referral as routine medical services. The language stipulates that
insurers will cover screening performed in a private setting and by a trained
professional; an assessment of the patient’s short-term safety needs; provision
of educational materials to the patient about the dynamics of domestic
violence, and information about community services that provide safety,
support and advocacy for violence survivors.
|All Senators need to hear from activists, but Senators who especially
need pressure are: Spencer Abraham (R-MI), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Ben Nighthorse
Campbell (R-CO), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Peter Fitzgerald
(R-IL), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Connie Mack (R-FL), John
McCain (R-AZ), William Roth (R-DE), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Richard Shelby
(R-AL), Gordon Smith (R-OR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA),
Fred Thompson (R-TN), John Warner (R-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jim
Although debate began today, a vote may not happen until later in the
week. Therefore, it is important that you contact your Senators as soon
as you get this message. Tell them that you want meaningful protections
for consumers under managed care and that women require the kind of protections
that are in S. 6. Also, alert all Senators to the Lautenberg
amendment and ask them to support it. The main number for Congress is (202)
224-3121; just ask the operator to connect you to your Senators’ offices.
|S. 326, The “Patients’ Bill of Rights Plus” Act * Does not ensure
that treatment decisions (such as how long a patient stays in the hospital)
are made by the patient’s doctor;
|An amendment offered by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) to explicitly
permit breast-feeding in National Parks and national museums was adopted
unanimously by the House Appropriations Committee on July 1st as part of
the Fiscal Year 2000 Interior Appropriations. Rep. Roybal-Allard said that
the amendment was prompted by numerous reports from women who said that
they had been asked to stop breast-feeding their infants or had been humiliated
by National Park Service Rangers or museum guards.
|Thank Rep. Roybal-Allard for her good work on this issue and urge your Senators to support the provision when the Interior Appropriations bill comes up in the Senate.|
|The House of Representatives passed on June 30th, the so-called Child
Custody Protection Act (H.R.1218- CCPA) by a vote of 270-159, with 64 Democrats
joining 206 Republicans to vote for the measure. H.R. 1218 would
criminalize any adult (other than a parent) who assists an adolescent to
obtain an abortion outside of their home state without following the home
state’s parental involvement laws.
The Senate version of the bill (S. 661) is reported to be scheduled
for consideration later this month. The Senate, in the 105th Congress,
refused to pass the “Teen Endangerment” Act and abortion rights supporters
hope that the Senate will hold fast against the CCPA this Congress.
|Action Needed:||Call, fax or email your Senators to urge that this dangerous bill be defeated.|
|Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has promised to offer the Hate Crimes Prevention
Act (S. 1529) as an amendment to the State/Commerce/Justice Departments
Appropriations Bill when it comes to the floor the week of July 19th.
Advocates are busy assuring that there are the necessary 51 votes and report
that we are within striking distance, with over 40 Senators either co-sponsoring
or stating their intention to vote for the bill. H.R. 1529 would
add new categories (sex-based, sexual orientation-based and disability-based
bias crimes) to the federal criminal statutes, among other improvements.
The current rash of dreadful hate crimes continues unabated, noted White House officials in a press conference held today. Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee appeared along with other officials to urge passage by the Senate. Additionally, 22 State Attorneys General support S. 1529, along with the National Sheriffs’ Association and more than 100 national organizations.
The number of hate crimes reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation nearly doubled from 1991-1997 ( 4,558 to 8,049); although not all hate crimes are properly identified or officially reported. Of the more than 40 states which have hate crimes statutes, only 21 cover sexual orientation, 22 include gender and 21 cover disability. Extending the federal law to these categories would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to tap federal resources in bringing cases based on state law. And, the bill also allows state and local authorities to be authorized by the Department of Justice to bring cases based on federal law.
Language was added to S. 1529 which answers criticism made by the America
Civil Liberties Union about potential conflicts with Constitutional free
|If you haven’t contacted your Senators about this important bill, please
do so as soon as possible. Every additional vote we gain to reach the majority
of 51 Senators is critical.
|Although Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reportedly said
his committee will hold hearings in July for re-authorization of Violence
Against Women (VAW) programs, no date has been announced as yet.
Hearings and re-authorization are critically important, as most of the
programs --and their funding -- will expire on October 1st.
In the meantime, advocates are continuing efforts to inform members of Congress and the public about the effectiveness of VAW programs. A briefing, “Report from the Field: Promising Programs Working to End Violence Against Women,” was to be held today in the Senate. Speakers are from the offices of the Texas and South Carolina Attorneys’ General as well as from state domestic violence/sexual assault coalitions. STOP Grants and Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies were reviewed by Independence, MO Chief of Police Gary George with Judge Mary T. Wynne of the Puyallup (WA) Tribal Court of Appeals discussing Tribal and Judicial Education Programs.
NOW and other advocates have swung into high gear with a national signature-gathering
campaign, sponsored by the National Task Force to End Violence Against
Women. NOW has designed a petition, with the logo “It’s My Right... to
live free of Domestic and Sexual Violence,” which is available to NOW chapters
and activists. The petition is also being circlated on the Lilith Fair
Concert circuit where NOW, the National Task Force and the National Coalition
Against Domestic Violence with help from local battered women’s shelters
will be managing tables and volunteers. The Task Force is aiming
for 100,00 signatures to send to Congress in support of the new Violence
Against Women Act of 1999 (H.R. 357), which would expand many effective
programs and initiative several new ones. Very soon, a VAWA website with
the new petition online, will be in operation.
|Call, write or fax Sen. Orrin Hatch and urge that he schedule oversight
hearings on Violence Against Women programs. House members should
be urged to take up H.R. 1248, the VAWA Re-Authorization bill. The main
message is: “Time is running out on these vital programs that have saved
lives. Please re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act.”
If you are going to a conference, convention or other public event where signatures could be gathered on our petition, please request copies by calling Tara Hudson, NOW Government Relations intern, at (202) 331-0066 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
|"Teacher Empowerment Act" Would Wipe Out Gender Equity||A vote in the House of Representatives is expected next week for the
Teacher Empowerment Act, H.R. 1995, which re-authorizes professional development
programs in education. Sponsored by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-GA),
H.R. 1995 amends parts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
1965 that pertain to teacher training. Unfortunately, the bill excludes
re-authorization of the provisions focused on gender equity in training,
curriculum, classroom instruction and special programs in math and science
for girls. The legislation is the first of numerous efforts to eliminate
programs that address gender discrimination in education.
Unfortunately, a Democratic substitute that included gender equity provisions
was defeated in committee. Differential treatment of girls and boys based
on stereotypical expections or unconscious teaching styles persists today
despite efforts by feminists and some educators to advance gender equity
goals in the classroom.
|Please contact your Representative to urge him/her to vote against
H.R. 1995 unless gender equity concerns are adequately met and those programs
|The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1999 (H.R. 833) is scheduled for a floor
vote in the Senate the week of July 19th; the House passed the bill on
May 6th. H.R. 833 is considerably more regressive than last
year’s bankruptcy “reform” bill (H.R. 3150), which passed both houses but
ultimately failed in the face of a threatened Presidential veto. The main
thrust of this complicated legislation is to empower the credit card and
banking industry, while limiting the ability of individuals to sensibly
re-organize their personal debts and regain a stable financial footing.
Discretion for bankruptcy court judges has been limited in the bill and
very little is included to limit irresponsible credit card marketing by
Among the numerous defects of H.R. 833 is the still-uncorrected situation in which certain credit card debt is elevated to the same level as past due child support or alimony. The bill’s supporters say the problem has been fixed and that the legislation is backed by child support enforcement organizations. However, it appears that only a single child support group that favors government collection of past due child support endorses the bill and, reportedly, none of the other organizations that represent the interests of women and children back the current child support language in the bill.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is sponsoring an amendment to assure that clinic violence debts are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. The measure addresses the problem posed by defendants, like anti-abortion terrorist Randall Terry, who have declared bankruptcy to avoid paying judgements in clinicviolence lawsuits.
The powerful banking and credit card industry has extensively lobbied
members of Congress on the bill; millions of dollars were poured into incumbents’
campaign treasuries last year. Many believe that because of this
intense pressure, a majority of Senators will vote for H.R. 833.
|The provisions which elevate credit card debt to the same level as
past due alimony or child support must be changed. Please urge your
Senator to support amendments to address that problem in H.R. 833 in addition
to urging them to vote NO on the final bill. Overall, the legislation
is harmful to women, lower income and elderly persons who face financial
crises and depend upon a balanced personal bankruptcy system -- and it
should be defeated.
|The Religious Liberty Protection Act (H.R. 1691) is expected come up
for a House floor vote this week and may affect state and local civil rights
laws. The legislation has bipartisan support for the important protections
that it provides various religious groups, but elements of H.R. 1691 threaten
to undermine effective enforcement of civil rights laws by granting an
exemption for individuals for reasons of personal religious beliefs
from having to comply with civil rights laws. As an example a person
claiming that compliance with local or state civil rights laws would burden
their religious beliefs, could then deny housing or public accommodations
to an HIV-positive person or a lesbian couple.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will offer amendment that would clarify the
exemption by providing this religious defense to a relatively small number
of individuals, such as small landlords, small businesses and religious
organizations. Larger landlords and larger businesses would not be
able to invoke the defense that complying with local and state civil rights
laws would unduly burden their religious beliefs.
|If you were not able to contact your House Member in response to the
NOW Action Alert of June 14th, please make that call now. The bill
could come up as soon as July 14th (but could also be delayed). The
message to Members is: "Support the Nadler amendment< and if the amendment
is not adopted, vote AGAINST S. 1691."