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ACLU Finds Civil Liberties Implications in Health Care Reform;
Calls on Congress To Pass Comprehensive Act that Protects Civil Rights
-- Releases `Health Care Reform Bill of Rights' --
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 1994
WASHINGTON -- In a comprehensive analysis of President Clinton's
Health Security Act, the American Civil Liberties Union has released a new
public policy report calling on Congress to approve comprehensive health
care reform legislation that advances civil liberties and civil rights.
The 41-page report, "Toward A New Health Care System: The Civil
Liberties Issues," explains that although the U.S. Constitution does not
explicitly guarantee a right to adequate health care, its denial can
threaten an individual's constitutional rights to life, liberty and
property. The report looks at four major civil liberties principles
implicated by health care reform: Equal protection under the law, personal
privacy, due process of law and the First Amendment freedoms of religion
The ACLU also released a "Health Care Reform Bill of Rights," a
succinct compilation of the most serious issues that Congress should
consider when weighing any proposal for health care reform.
"Since the early part of this century, federal, state and local
governments have played an ever-increasing role in the delivery of health
care," said Laura Murphy Lee, Director of the ACLU's national Washington
Office. "Yet poor people, people with disabilities, women and people of
color still lack the appropriate levels of primary medical care and
disease prevention and treatment."
"In addition," Lee said, "current government policies have
contributed to substantial deprivations of civil rights and civil
liberties that require legislative action to correct."
The report, which has been distributed to every member of Congress
and to the Clinton Administration, applauds the Administration's efforts
to bring about reform, but is critical of provisions of the Health
Security Act that compromise civil rights or civil liberties. For example:
> The Act unjustifiably excludes several groups from the promise of
universal coverage, including undocumented non-citizens, prisoners and
Native Americans. This exclusion raises equal protection concerns.
> The Act requires the creation of a national, linked electronic data
network containing vast amounts of biographical and health information on
every U.S. resident, but fails to establish explicit, enforceable
protections to safeguard peoples' right to privacy.
> The Act creates administrative remedies for consumers to challenge
the denial of benefits, but the prescribed procedures contemplate methods
that may take more than a year to complete, compromising the due process
rights of patients who need preauthorization for treatment.
> The Act requires that all eligible individuals enroll in health
plans. However, certain religious faiths, notably Christian Science,
reject conventional medicine. The First Amendment requires that the Act
recognize the equivalent of "conscientious objector" status for such
Although the new report looks specifically at President Clinton's
proposed legislation, Lee said that many of the issues civil liberties
problems in the Health Security Act are likely to apply to other health
care reform proposals as well.
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