Coalition Calls For Quality of Care Legislation This Year

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The National Coalition on Health Care, the nationís most broadly representative non-partisan alliance seeking health system change, urges passage this year of legislation to improve the quality of health care in the United States.

The Coalition sent a letter today to every member of Congress urging their attention to this issue. The letter is signed by 11 Coalition members who also served in 1997 and 1998 on the 34-member Presidentís Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. (Copies of the letter and a Coalition position statement are enclosed.)

Henry Simmons, M.D., M.P.H., the Coalitionís president, said that legislation to reauthorize, refocus and rename the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research deserves quick bipartisan support. A bill could be marked up as early as this week by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. A companion bill is scheduled to be introduced in the House soon.

“This takes us in the right direction on health care quality,” Simmons said. “It would give the agency more resources and a sharpened mission to build the science base of health care practice. And that is above all what we need today in our system ñ evidence-based care that reduces inappropriate surgeries and treatments even as it increases the use of underutilized procedures, treatments and medicines for which there is solid evidence.”

The agency would target such research and take the lead in supporting evidence-based medical care under the terms of the bill. The Coalition urges Congress to double the agencyís budget over the next three fiscal years, starting with an increase to $250 million for fiscal year 2000. The agencyís fiscal 1999 budget is $171 million.

The Coalition also urges Congress to pass a law this year that protects the confidentiality of peopleís medical records and health care history. The law should foster the computerization of health care record keeping and encounters, which holds great promise to improve the quality of care.

The Coalition calls for a federal commitment to test methods of reporting, analyzing and tracking medical errors, which bring harm to some 1 million Americans each year and result in an estimated 120,000 deaths.

The National Coalition on Health Care is comprised of 90 member organizations that include large and small businesses, labor unions, consumer groups, provider groups, academic health centers and religious organizations. Former Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford serve as the Coalitionís Honorary Co-Chairs.