Tuesday, June 22, 2004

patient's bill of rights

The Supreme Court decision yesterday that a patient can't sue an HMO for malpractice in state court was a big deal. And it could become an even bigger deal with regard to the 2004 election. If Kerry wants it to be.

The crux of this issue appears to be that the US Supreme Court has negated state-level patient bills of rights in favor of the federal ERISA law. Frankly, I don't know much about ERISA, but it seems Congress has been struggling to resolve this issue for a while, trying to put together some sort of specific federal-level bill of rights distinct from ERISA.

This could become (be made into?) a major issue for the Democrats. Recall that one of Bush's major bullet points on his resume was that he had "brought Republicans and Democrats together to do just that in the State of Texas to get a patient's bill of rights through." (This was the one trumped by ERISA in yesterday's Supreme decision).

The only problem, of course, was that the bullet point isn't actually accurate. Bush not only didn't drive the effort, he first vetoed one version, then opposed a subsequent bipartisan bill so vigorously that even Texas Republicans complained about his actions. When the bill passed with enough support to overrule a veto, he refused to sign it at all and let it pass into law without his signature.

So perhaps in this new campaign season new light could be brought to bear on Bush's Texas shenanigans, and his true feelings about patients versus big business HMOs can be contrasted against his rhetoric. After all, a national patient bill of rights was a major issue of his in the 2000 campaign, one he has utterly failed to achieve.

And now, the legislation he dishonestly claimed the credit for has been negated by the Supreme Court. There's definitely the makings of some interesting conflict.