Government News
Long and Winding Road
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 6 page 42-42

Several patient protection bills have been introduced in Congress since 1999 to hold managed care plans accountable for their actions and decisions. A brief history of key bills, administration actions, and Supreme Court cases in this area is provided below, ending with the recently introduced 2001 Bipartisan Patient Protection Act (see article beginning on page 1).


• Texas becomes the first state to enact a law giving patients the right to sue their managed care plan in state court.

• President Bill Clinton urges Congress to pass strong patient-protection legislation.


July: The Senate passes a limited patient-protection bill (S 1344) that would cover 56 million Americans, but it adds no new right to sue managed care plans.

August: Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) introduces a broad patient-protection bill (HR 2723, which later became HR 2990) along with Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.). The bill would cover 191 million Americans and allow patients to sue managed care plans in state courts for punitive damages, with some restrictions.

October: The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes the Norwood-Dingell bill (HR 2990).


June: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Pegram v. Herdrich that managed care plans cannot be sued for medical malpractice in federal court.

October: The House and Senate reach a compromise on a controversial liability provision that would allow federal courts to hear patients’ lawsuits against health plans involving administrative benefit decisions and state courts to hear lawsuits involving health plans’ medical care decisions. Damages that could be awarded in federal court were capped at $5 million. Congress adjourns without passing the compromise patient-protection bill.


February: The Bipartisan Patient Protection Act is introduced in the Senate (S 283) and House (HR 526). President George W. Bush releases his Principles for a Bipartisan Patients’ Bill of Rights.

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