Patient Bill Tanks

by Alice Gomstyn | 7/5/01 5:00am

Last week's passage of the Senate's version of The Patient's Bill of Rights -- a resolution long-debated in both houses -- was hailed as a victory for the Democrats. Celebration was short-lived however, as on Tuesday President Bush announced that he would veto the Democrat-backed legislation, having thrown his support instead to a Republican-favored bill expected to arrive on the House floor in mid-July.

The two bills contain many similarities but also differ by one critical provision: lawsuits brought forward by patients believing they have been wronged by their insurers. The House bill, which Bush supports, does not allow patients to sue their insurers unless their claims have been thoroughly investigated by a review board. The Senate bill does not include any such standard.

Bush and fellow Republicans oppose the Senate bill on the grounds that it may open the door to an immeasurable number of lawsuits.

A more measurable figure for the Bush administration is 1.5 -- 1.5 million acres, that is. The administration announced on Monday that it would scale back its plans to drill for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico. Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton explained to the press that, following the recent change, only 1.5 million acres -- one quarter of the land originally leased by the Clinton administration -- would be opened for drilling by oil companies.

The compromise is intended to appease not only environmentalists, but President's Bush's own brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as well. Governor Bush, along with Florida's powerful Congressional delegation, has stood in sharp opposition to drilling that might threaten the beaches of the Sunshine State.

The state of Arkansas may soon see one of its representatives elevated to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson, brother of Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-AK, will be named to lead the DEA later this week, according to CNN. The third 86-term congressman, known for his longtime support for strict anti-drug enforcement, currently serves on the House Judiciary committee.