HEADLINES: Health Care Feature Stories
Today's New York Times features a front-page story on how doctors are adapting to the managed care revolution. The article, part of a larger series entitled "After the Revolution," notes that "43% of the nation's doctors ... worked for someone else" in 1997, "up from 24% in 1983." The Times profiles the experience of El Dorado Pediatrics, a small medical group in Placerville, CA, that is struggling to remain independent at the same time that "big medical groups" are absorbing other practices. El Dorado ultimately affiliated with a physician management firm, which was later acquired by FPA Medical Management Inc. Now, the El Dorado doctors are facing uncertainty in the wake of FPA's recent bankruptcy filing. Excerpt from the article: "Amid the chaos, medicine's elite have learned an ego-bruising lesson: They could not count on their patients. Given a choice between loyalty to a longtime doctor and cheaper medical care, the patient will choose to pay less. Dr. Washburn, the [El Dorado] pediatrician, has seen this from both sides; he is recovering from colorectal cancer, and recently switched primary care physicians because his doctor left his health plan. Managed care, he said, worked wonderfully for him; he never even saw a bill, and estimated that he paid no more than $100 for $250,000 worth of medical care. 'But,' he added, 'everybody who took care of me lost money on me'" (Stolberg, 8/3).
A front-page story in yesterday's Washington Post looked at the "growing number of consumers" who are encountering difficulties with getting their health plans to cover medical services. Excerpt: "Conflicts between health insurers and patients are hardly a new phenomenon, but the upheaval in the nation's health care system in recent years has raised the level of frustration. The managed care revolution, which promised to simplify billing for consumers, instead has spawned bureaucratic rules and procedures so complex that they have confounded even the latest computer systems -- not to mention human beings" (Hilzenrath, 8/2).
Today, the Detroit Free Press kicks off a series on minority health, looking specifically at the different obstacles encountered by African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other groups as they seek needed care. This morning's edition features a look at African Americans, a separate article on Asians and Hispanics and a list of "solutions" to the problems as stated by various health care experts (8/3).
The Washington Post is running a series on how government agencies and businesses are preparing for the Year 2000 computer problem. Today's installment features a side article on the Health Care Financing Administration's preparations. The Post notes that HCFA "relies on 60 privacy insurance companies to process health care claims electronically and pay doctors and hospitals for services provided Medicare beneficiaries. The complexity of that network and the political importance of Medicare has made the HCFA the No. 1 worry this summer for the White House council handling Year 2000 issues." HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle said, "We aren't going to leave anything to chance. We are developing contingencies, and I'm personally managing this within the agency. There is no more serious concern" (Barr, 8/3).
A front-page story in Saturday's Washington Post looked at the safety of volunteers in clinical trials. Excerpt: "Medical research is changing dramatically. Modest studies aimed at answering straightforward questions are giving way to large, complex research projects freighted with social and ethical baggage, such as those relating to reproductive technology or genetic predispositions. Public perceptions are shifting too. 'Guinea pig' was once a pejorative term, but many people with AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses are now demanding access to experimental drugs as their best hope for survival. These scientific and social changes have led to a sharp increase in the number of people participating in experiments, and have strained the nation's system of protections for research volunteers" (Weiss, 8/1).
This week's New York Times Magazine looks at the rise of "disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to our most powerful antibiotics." A segment of the article takes a close look at drug companies' efforts to play catch-up: "pouring hundreds of millions of dollars" into the development of at least "27 new microbe-killers," according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Several of the "most promising candidates" for "a new class of pharmaceutical agent" to arrive within the next few years are:
- Linezolid, Pharmacia and Upjohn
- Ziracin, Schering-Plough
- Synercid, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer