Managed care interests opposing a pro-consumer Patient’s Bill of Rights have contributed $128,149 towards Senator Conrad Burns’ re-election campaign, according to a Public Citizen analysis of Federal Election Commission data. During that time Burns has voted at least three (3) times against a strong patients’ rights bill and instead sided with the managed care industry.
Those same managed care interests have contributed $1,000 to Burns’ opponent, farmer and rancher, Brian Schweitzer.
The information was released today by the national consumer watchdog group Public Citizen and critically acclaimed author Jamie Court, at a news conference in front of Senator Burns’ office in Helena. Court is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
Court also delivered a blow-up waiver of right to sue an HMO form to Burn’s office. The waiver form asks Burns to pledge to support a patient’s bill of rights or agree to waive his rights to legal remedies as a government worker against an HMO or health insurer. In addition, the waiver form states that Burns recognizes it is unfair for him as a public servant to have greater remedies against an HMO than his constituents.
“American consumers could have real protections from insurance company abuse if two U.S. senators would change their positions and vote for the bipartisan Norwood-Dingell Patient’s Bill of Rights that passed the House by a strong majority last year,” said Frank Clemente, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Senator Burns has a choice: Will he continue to side with the special interests in Washington who have padded his campaign account, or will he stand with the people of Montana seeking relief from insurance company abuse?”
On June 8, 2000, Burns, along with 50 other Republican senators voted against a Senate version of the Norwood-Dingell bill, that would give consumers protections against insurance company that deny them care and prohibit doctors from discussing treatment options with them. If Burns and one of his colleagues were to switch their vote, consumers would have the protections they desperately need.
“The vote of Senator Burns will determine whether 125 million American patients will continue to face cruel HMO denials and delays in the name of money, not medicine,” said Jamie Court, co-author of Making A Killing: HMOs and the Threat To Your Health. “Increased reimbursements to HMOs will open up the flood gate for managed care companies to set up shop in Montana. Montanans have a right to know that they will receive the best care possible from their health plan.”
Senator Burns has also indirectly benefited from the more than $2,000,000 in soft money contributions from the managed care industry since, January 1995, to Republican Party Committee. Party leaders use this leverage to pressure senators to deliver legislative favors to big soft money contributors.
Public Citizen is a 150,000 member national non-profit, non-partisan, member-supported public interest group, with well over 500 members in Montana. The organization fights on issues in the public interest ranging from consumer rights to campaign finance reform to health and public safety through lobbying, public education, research and media outreach.