Republicans Push Health Care Bill

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - Congressional Republicans are working to pass legislation that would facilitate access to health care services and provide greater protection to patients in health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, said Representative Rick Lazio in Saturday's weekly GOP radio address.

"It will allow patients, not insurance companies, to choose a doctor, anytime, anywhere, regardless of whether a physician is part of the patient's HMO or not," said Lazio, a New York Republican who has been mentioned as a possible Senate candidate if New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani drops out of that race.

Lazio said the legislation, known as the Patient Protection Act, will especially benefit women because it would allow them to directly consult with a gynecologist "without the need to go through gatekeepers or jump through procedural hoops."

Lazio, who is in his fourth term in Congress, represents a Long Island district that includes part of New York City.

In recent days speculation has been growing that Giuliani will drop out of the Senate race with Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton after he announced that he is suffering from prostrate cancer and is separating from his wife, Donna Hanover.

Last year, the House and Senate passed different patients rights bills, but failed to agree on a unified version that could be sent to President Clinton to be signed into law.

The House version had bipartisan support and included a right to sue a health provider when care is improperly denied. The Senate version contained no such provision.

Lazio said patients should have the right to seek legal redress, but "in a way that will not encourage frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but make health insurance more expensive for all."