Showdown On Patients Bill Set; Right To Sue Key

When a Congressional committee sits down later this month to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of patient protection bills passed last year, it will have significantly different philosophical approaches to address. For example, the House measure applies to all of the estimated 160 million Americans without health insurance and would permit patients to sue health insurers for denial of care. By contrast, there is no patient right to sue in the Senate bill, which also would apply only to some 48 million people without insurance. The House bill also guarantees several provisions not in the Senate bill -- such as the right of patients to see specialists without a referral and the right of patients to seek care at the nearest emergency room. President Clinton has said that he favors the House version of the bill, which has the support of more than 300 health and consumer groups.

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