States and the Patients’ Bill of Rights

Published September 1, 2001

“We are very concerned about federal pre-emption of our state law, which is working well for the citizens of Ohio. Federal pre-emption is not necessary,” said J. Lee Covington II, director of the Ohio Insurance Department, when asked to comment on Patients’ Bill of Rights legislation pending in Congress.

Frank M. Fitzgerald, insurance commissioner of Michigan and also a Republican, agreed. He specifically opposes a House bill provision that would override state procedures for the review of decisions by health maintenance organizations. “The House bill appears to pre-empt all state internal and external review laws,” Fitzgerald said. “If that becomes law, I would have real concern about the ability of people to get an appropriate and adequate review of adverse decisions by HMOs.”

Republicans are not the only state officials concerned about the federal government’s approach to patient rights. Warned Governor Gray Davis (D-CA), “The federal government is diminishing the health care rights of Californians. Congress should adopt minimum standards and allow states to exceed them. But instead, it’s rolling back rights that we accorded to patients in a package of 20 separate bills that I signed in 1999.”