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Here comes the Obama health court

Do you remember Congress voting for a federal government process guaranteeing patients' rights under the law and ordering insurers to provide coverage? I don't.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

In his weekly address over the weekend President Obama dropped a bombshell few reporters seemed to notice.

In the next month, we’ll also be putting in place a new patients’ bill of rights. It will provide simple and clear information to consumers about their choices and their rights. It will set up an appeals process to enforce those rights. And it will prohibit insurance companies from limiting a patients’ access to their preferred primary care provider, ob-gyn, or emergency room care.

Do you remember Congress voting for a federal government process guaranteeing patients' rights under the law and ordering insurers to provide coverage?

I don't.

But in taking this action, the President performed some political jiu jitsu. Republican efforts in health reform last year were often called a Health Care Bill of Rights.

And this should not be that much of a surprise. The President spoke about the idea in an address last December and said his bill was like a "patient's bill of rights on steroids" while campaigning for final passage in March.

This goes further, in that it's setting up a process, within the executive branch, for adjudicating disputes between providers and consumers that previously were either handled in court or by binding arbitration.

Supposedly someone is going to be in charge of this new process. There has to be staff for it. Will these be Presidential appointees, or career staff within the Department of Health and Human Services?

And what will the process look like? A court? A meeting in some bureaucrat's office? Will it all be done by phone or e-mail? I don't know.

There is also some political danger for the President going forward. Will these decisions be public? And what happens when a consumer wins rights on what later turn out to be questionable or even fraudulent grounds? What happens when consumers lose their appeals?

I'm waiting for the first Republican Senator to attack this as the "Obama Health Court." Thus the headline. I should not have long to wait.

My personal opinion is that this kind of thing is vital and necessary, but my concern is this is going to be fraught with controversy. Stay tuned.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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