August 2001 Bulletin

States tell Congress, ‘do no harm’

Nine days before the Senate approved the patients’ bill of rights legislation on June 29, 2001, state legislators had this message: do no harm.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) was concerned federal legislation "will largely preempt important state laws and replace them with federal laws that we believe the federal government is ill-prepared to monitor and enforce," said Garnet Coleman, chairman of the NCSL’s Health Committee.

Instead, of grandfathering the state laws, as the NCSL preferred, or preempting the state laws, as the NCSL feared, the Senate bill takes a middle ground by saying the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services would have to certify that the state laws are in "substantial compliance" with the federal law.

In a letter to Senate leaders, the NCSL said it "supports the establishment of needed consumer protections for individuals receiving care through managed care entities, however, no individual should lose protections they enjoy today in their state."

The NCSL said more than half the states have already enacted the patient protections similar to those established in the bills considered in the Senate. Specifically:

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