DEPARTMENT OF MANAGED CARE: Zingale Poised to Make Reform
Faced with assembling "from scratch a start-up agency whose jurisdiction ... is one of the most contentious issues on [California's] political radar screen," Daniel Zingale is ready to take on the challenge of running the state's new Department of Managed Care, the Wall Street Journal reports. Zingale's tasks include imposing a one-time $11 million assessment on state HMOs to help pay for the new department, making appointments to two advisory panels, hiring 131 employees and monitoring, enforcing and explaining the more than 24 new managed care laws passed last year. At the same time, he "can't ignore this year's legislative battles over managed care." Jamie Court, advocacy director of the not-for-profit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, said, "This guy has probably the most difficult job in the administration, because of all the expectations that his new department will be the panacea." But Zingale sought out the job because he said it would be a "big challenge. And I like that." Zingale added, "To some extent you have to build the plane while flying the plane. That's a tricky act, but either way we'll make it work" (Benson, 3/22). Zingale was executive director of AIDS Action from 1997 to 1999, and he served as deputy controller and chief of staff to then-controller Gray Davis from 1987 to 1991 (DMC release, 3/22).
The department is slated to launch either on July 1 or when Davis signs the executive order to create it, which he is expected to do next month. Until that time, the Department of Corporations will continue to regulate HMOs. While Zingale declined to discuss any pending legislation, he outlined two ideas: a consumer resources center that would offer consumer guidance and explain consumer rights and responsibilities; and a plan-provider relations office that would solicit and review "constructive ideas" from health plans and providers. Zingale added that one of his primary goals is "restoring [the] faith" Californians have lost in managed care. He also wants to place "a new emphasis on preventive care."
Expectations are high for the department and for Zingale. Court said, "If this department doesn't confront the HMOs with a heavy hammer early on, then it's going to set the wrong tone. This industry has to hear alarm bells, not dinner chimes." He added that Zingale "seems to be very pure of heart and anxious to have an impact. He will either last about two hours, or he will make that impact and see his blood pressure rise considerably" (Wall Street Journal, 3/22).