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Military, Civilians Protected by Patients' Bill of Rights

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 1998 – A new Patients' Bill of Rights directs all federal health plans to comply with the President's Quality Commission consumer bill of rights.

President Clinton signed an executive memorandum Feb. 20 follows a report from Vice President Al Gore on the status of compliance with the bill of rights by federal health practitioners. Although the report cites shortcomings, it concludes that federal health plans already are largely in compliance.

Federal health plans include Medicare, Medicaid, the Indian Health Service, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, military health care programs and Veterans Affairs Department health care.

The president's memorandum directs DoD, by this fall, to:

  • establish a strong grievance and appeal process for beneficiaries who have been denied services by managed care companies contracted through TRICARE; to
  • promote greater use of women's health specialists to serve as primary care managers for female beneficiaries; and to
  • ensure all patients can full discuss all treatment options with their military health care provider.

Also under the memorandum, the Office of Personnel Management must notify all 350 participating carriers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program that they must improve access to specialists, continuity of care and access to emergency services by the end of 1999. Clinton also directed OPM to publish new regulations prohibiting gag clauses that restrict physician-patient communications.

Veterans Affairs, which serves some three million former service members, must put in place an internal and external appeals process under the directive.

Besides signing the memorandum directing federal health care improvements, Clinton reissued his challenge to Congress to pass legislation that ensures a patient's bill of rights becomes federal law.

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