DIANNE FEINSTEIN: California’s System in ‘Crisis,’ Senator Says
California's health care system "is in a crisis that can be saved only by reining in HMOs, enacting a patients' bill of rights and making prescription drugs more affordable," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told the California Association of Health Facilities last week. Feinstein, campaigning to retain her Senate seat, pointed out that seven million Californians lack insurance, 39 hospitals have closed, 300 doctors groups have shut down, eight HMOs are cutting back coverage and the state ranks 48th in Medicare reimbursements (Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 8/29). She said, "No word that I can think of is too strong to indicate the disrepair that [the system is] in. All our health care facilities are in financial crises -- hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, emergency departments, closing" (Marquez, Ventura County Star, 8/29). The state's problems began when "medicine became a business," Feinstein said, adding, "As long as business is practicing medicine, you need a patients' bill of rights." Feinstein also weighed in on Measure O, a ballot initiative sponsored by Community Memorial Hospital that would divert Ventura County's tobacco settlement to eight private hospitals. Feinstein said that she believes the "public sector" should determine whether Ventura County or private hospitals should receive the funds.
Campbell Speaks, Too
Meanwhile, Feinstein's opponent Rep. Tom Campbell (R) met with members of the Hispanic Congress of Republicans of Ventura County. Campbell also called for a prescription drug benefit and promoted a bill that would allow doctors to bargain with HMOs, "rather than be rolled over by them." Campbell said that polls show him running behind Feinstein, 40% to 50% (Los Angeles Times, 8/29).