Patients' Rights vs. Politicians' Wrongs
June 22, 2001
With the recent change in the Senate leadership, patients'
rights have once again become a hot topic in Washington.
Senator Ted Kennedy (Dem.-MA) is pushing a so-called
"patients' bill of rights." He strongly supports allowing
patients to sue their HMOs for denying medically necessary
However, Senator Kennedy and others continue to overlook
the root cause of the problem: Americans should not
be coerced into joining HMOs in the first place. Instead,
they should be free to pick and choose their own health-care
plans and services without third-party interference.
We don't allow employers or government to pick and
choose our automobile or homeowner's insurance. Why
should we allow them to choose something as personal
as our health plans? This standard has evolved from
two federal policies, both decades old.
Federal Tax Law and HMO Act of 1973
Today's workers are effectively coerced into HMOs because
of federal tax policy established in the 1940s. Currently,
health insurance is excluded from taxation if employers
purchase it, but individually purchased insurance is not.
That means workers must accept the limited options (often
HMOs) offered by employers or pay higher taxes.
Additionally, the HMO Act of 1973 required employers
(with 25 or more employees) to offer HMOs to workers.
Ironically, Senator Ted Kennedy -- who today wants to
protect Americans from HMO abuse -- sponsored this legislation.
Time to Restore True Patients' Rights
What is the best way to restore true patients' rights?
By reducing citizens' tax burden so they'll have more
money to pay privately for the health services and insurance
of their choice. It is well known that, "he who
pays the piper calls the tune." Until individuals are
the ones paying the bills and choosing their insurance,
they won't have control over their health-care decisions.
Elissa Meininger, co-founder of Health Freedom ACTION
Network points out, "Whoever controls your medical and
health care decisions controls you."
Correcting Politicians' Wrongs
President Bush's tax cut is a good start toward restoring
health freedom. It allows citizens to keep more of their
money, so they'll have more disposable income to pay for
the health-care services of their choice.
Congress and President Bush also should consider repealing
some of the major laws (tax laws, HMO laws, etc.) that
have eroded patient choice over the past 60 years. Politicians
have made claims about certain proposals (e.g., HMOs)
that simply haven't proven to be correct. Instead of
tinkering around with HMO legislation, Congress should
consider truly restoring citizens' freedom of choice
in health care, including:
No legislation should be titled a "patients' bill of rights"
without these three basic freedoms from government and
- Freedom to choose treatments without government
(e.g., FDA) interference.
- Freedom to contract privately with doctors and other
health-care practitioners of one's choice (including
signing contracts for informed consent for treatment
and disclosure of medical information).
- Freedom to maintain private patient-doctor (or other
This article was originally published in the May/June
2001 issue of Health
No legislation should be deemed a "patients' bill
of rights" unless it guarantees the freedom to contract,
the freedom to choose natural treatments without
FDA interference, and the freedom to maintain confidential