a patient bill of rights

A patient bill of rights is a list of what a hospital promises to its patients to protect their interests. In 2001, the United States Congress proposed a bill called the “Bipartisan Patient Protection Act.” The purpose of the bill was to provide comprehensive protections to Americans covered by health insurance plans. Included in the proposed protections was a right to go to the closest emergency room, see a medical specialist and keep the same doctor throughout the patient’s medical treatment. These seem to be fairly basic safety protections for patients in need of medical treatment. It was widely published that the insurance industry was opposed to the bill. Wendell Potter, a former executive at Cigna turned whistle -blower wrote that the insurance industry has worked to kill “any reform that might interfere with insurers’ ability to increase profits” by engaging in extensive and well-funded, anti-reform campaigns. It should come as no surprise that the bill ultimately failed to pass.

UPMC has published on their web site a list of patients’ rights. Among the 22 different rights listed is this, “A patient has the right to medical and nursing services without discrimination based upon race, color, age, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, source of payment, or marital, veteran, or handicapped status.” Really?

The statement concerning “source of payment” made me once again think about the UPMC Highmark dispute concerning denial of patient access for some of Highmark insured’s to UPMC hospitals and UPMC doctors. It seems to me that UPMCs position that Highmark insured’s will no longer have access to UPMC hospitals and UPMC doctors is in direct violation of UPMC’s published patient rights. Unfortunately, the efforts to pass a law to prevent this from occurring failed. But all is not lost.

There is pending legislation in the Pennsylvania senate sponsored by State Senators Randy Vulakovich and Jay Costa and legislation in the Pennsylvania House sponsored by Jim Christiana and Dan Frankel. Senate Bill 1247 and House Bill 1621 would, among other things, require hospitals to contract with any willing insurer. To get involved and learn more about these critical issues go to www.cpanofpa.org , the web site of CPAN of PA: Citizen-Patient Advocacy Network.

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