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Patients' Bill of Rights in Medicare and Medicaid

When these regulations are fully implemented, Medicare and Medicaid will have among the strongest patients’ protection in the country. The proposed regulations give HHS a variety of monitoring and enforcement tools, including suspension of payments, civil monetary penalties, and termination from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The Right to Information. Patients have the right to receive accurate, easily understood information to assist them in making informed decisions about their health plans, facilities and professionals.

The Right to Choose. Patients have the right to a choice of health care providers that is sufficient to assure access to appropriate high-quality health care including giving women access to qualified specialists such as obstetrician-gynecologists and giving patients with serious medical conditions and chronic illnesses access to specialists.

Access to Emergency Services. Patients have the right to access emergency health services when and where the need arises. Health plans should provide payment when a patient presents himself/herself to any emergency department with acute symptoms of sufficient severity “including severe pain” that a “prudent layperson” could reasonably expect the absence of medical attention to result in placing that consumer’s health in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.

Being a Full Partner in Health Care Decisions. Patients have the right to fully participate in all decisions related to their health care. Consumers who are unable to fully participate in treatment decisions have the right to be represented by parents, guardians, family members, or other conservators. Additionally provider contracts should not contain any so-called “gag clauses” that restrict health professionals’ ability to discuss and advise patients on medically necessary treatment options.

Care Without Discrimination. Patients have the right to considerate, respectful care from all members of the health care industry at all times and under all circumstances. Patients must not be discriminated against in the marketing or enrollment or in the provision of health care services, consistent with the benefits covered in their policy and/or as required by law, based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age, current or anticipated mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, or source of payment.

The Right to Privacy. Patients have the right to communicate with health care providers in confidence and to have the confidentiality of their individually-identifiable health care information protected. Patients also have the right to review and copy their own medical records and request amendments to their records.

The Right to Speedy Complaint Resolution. Patients have the right to a fair and efficient process for resolving difference with their health plans, health care providers, and the institutions that serve them, including a rigorous system of internal review and an independent system of external review.

Taking on New Responsibilities. In a health care system that affords patients rights and protections, patients must also take greater responsibility for maintaining good health.

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