Tuesday, April 06, 2004

And he's being shifty, sneaky, and opportunistic again

Regarding patients' rights, flip-flop it is but isn't this more than just a flip-flop:
    On Oct. 17, 2000, in a presidential debate against Democratic candidate Al Gore, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas promised a patients' bill of rights like the one in his state, including a right to sue managed-care companies for wrongfully refusing to cover needed treatment.

    "If I'm the president . . . people will be able to take their HMO insurance company to court," Bush said. "That's what I've done in Texas and that's the kind of leadership style I'll bring to Washington."

    Today, legislation for a federal patients' bill of rights is moribund in Congress. And the Bush administration's Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to block lawsuits under the very Texas law Bush touted in 2000.

    To let two Texas consumers, Juan Davila and Ruby R. Calad, sue their managed-care companies for wrongful denials of medical benefits "would be to completely undermine" federal law regulating employee benefits, Assistant Solicitor General James A. Feldman said at oral argument March 23.

    Moreover, the administration's brief attacked the policy rationale for Texas's law, which is similar to statutes on the books in nine other states, arguing that the benefits to patients are outweighed by costs to managed-care companies -- which, passed on to employers, "could make employers less willing to provide health benefits."

    "The big story is the total flip-flop here," said M. Gregg Bloche, a professor of law at Georgetown University who specializes in health care issues.
And we see them splitting hairs in order to be right:

    The White House says there is no contradiction.

    "The president continues to support Texas's law, which applies to actual health care treatment decisions," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. "However, decisions of an HMO to deny coverage have always been covered by federal law."

    Bush's position is clearly consistent in the sense that he was actually never as strongly in favor of the Texas statute as he said at the debate. As governor, he vetoed it in 1995, then let it become law without his signature in 1997, saying, "This legislation has the potential to drive up health care costs and increase the number of lawsuits. I hope my concerns are proven wrong."
Which leaves me nearly bereft of any emotion other than outrage. And as for values, flip-flop doesn't do it for me any more. It's really all about arrogance for and betrayal of the American people, once again.