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Lawmaker who supported patient rights dies


WASHINGTON—Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga., a champion of legislation to expand the liability of health insurers for improper denial-of-care decisions, died Tuesday of lung cancer. He was 65.

For a decade, Rep. Norwood was the chief sponsor of legislation--dubbed the Patient Access to Responsible Care Act--to allow patients to sue health plans for punitive and other damages allowed under state law for improper denial or delay of care. Under those measures, employers also could have been sued if they exercised the authority to review claims, as many employers now do. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act generally limits recoveries to actual losses.

Rep. Norwood's bills failed to win congressional approval, with insurers successfully convincing lawmakers that enactment would have driven up premiums.

Not deterred by those setbacks, Rep. Norwood again introduced his original proposal just one day before he died at his home in Augusta, Ga., saying that if House Democrats rallied behind it, "They would score big with the public."

The former dentist acknowledged that he would not live to see the outcome of the debate, but said he was confident that the bill would be enacted into law this session.