(SEATTLE, Wash.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) met with citizens from Puget Sound whose health has been jeopardized by their HMOs. Senator Murray also heard from doctors and nurses who see compelling cases on a daily basis and support immediate passage of a strong Patients' Bill of Rights.
"We need a system where doctors are not spending 45 minutes on the phone with an insurance company so a sick child can be admitted to a hospital," Murray said.
No one knows this better than Christine Malone whose son, Ian, was born with brain-damage and respiratory problems. Ian needs professional nursing care to administer his many medications and clear fluid from his lungs every two hours. But the family's health insurance company decided to drop the Malone's coverage and eliminate the nursing care, telling the Malone's that they should put Ian up for adoption or make him a ward of the state so that he could get care through Medicaid.
"We were viewed as numbers on a page, not as a family with a sick child who needed help," said Christine Malone. "For our providers, money, rather than care, was the number one priority."
Dr. Stephen Albrecht, a full time practitioner with Olympia Family Medicine and Board President of the Pro Health Alliance -- a network of 400 physicians and 4 hospitals in Southwest Washington that contracts with a variety of health plans for provider services -- sees patients hurt by their insurance providers every day.
"I hear compelling stories day in and day out. While not all of these stories are as dramatic as the ones we've heard today, they are all important," Albrecht said. "Just last Friday, I saw a patient whose insurance company wouldn't cover his insulin pump, and that affects both his health and quality of life."
"We need to level the playing field," Albrecht said. "As a physician, I am responsible for my actions, HMOs must be held responsible for theirs."
The McCain/Kennedy/Edwards bill would improve managed care while ensuring that healthcare decisions rest in the hands of patients based upon the professional medical advice of their physicians.
"Stories like those we've heard today, show that we must pass a strong Patients Bill of Rights' to ensure that fighting illness, rather than fighting insurance companies, remains our top priority," Sen. Murray said.