HMO POLITICS: Ohio Republican Has His Own Reform Plan
Ohio Secretary of State Bob Taft -- the GOP nominee in the state's gubernatorial contest -- last week unveiled "his own vision for reforming managed health care systems," the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Taft's "Patient Protection Plan" would require insurers "to respond within 14 days to the appeal of patients denied medical treatment"; a 72-hour time-limit would apply in "life-threatening cases." In addition, health plans would have to guarantee "direct access ... without preapproval" for women's health and emergency room services, and patients would be given the right to see out-of-network physicians as long as they are willing to pay the extra cost. The plan also would require "licensed doctors [to] serve as medical directors of health insurance companies," and mandates that plans set up toll-free consumer lines. Most importantly, Taft's proposal would "allow consumers to sue health insurers for damages for improperly refusing care." In unveiling his plan, Taft said, "There is too much emphasis on management and not enough on care. It's time to refocus health care systems in favor of the patient, family and consumers and improve the patient's access to quality health care."
The Plain Dealer notes that Taft released his plan "a day after his Democratic opponent ... denounced him for remaining mum on the subject." Alan Melamed, campaign chair for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lee Fisher, "criticized Taft's plan, saying he borrowed ideas from Fisher and failed to say how to accomplish the reform." Melamed said, "Basically, Bob Taft tried to resuscitate himself on health care today by going to an emergency room, but his plan is dead on arrival. The only new idea he's got is to help the big insurance companies." His remark refers to another aspect of Taft's plan that would "boost the financial requirements for insurance company reserve funds." This requirement, Melamed said, "restricts competition" (Brown, 7/24). The Akron Beacon Journal takes a close look at the HMO reforms proposed by both Fisher and Taft . The Beacon Journal also reports that Reform Party gubernatorial candidate John Mitchel criticized Democrats and Republicans for "trying to sell more government mandates to correct for their failed health care policies passed into law years ago." He called Taft's and Fisher's HMO reform plans "gimmicks to convince voters that the major party candidates 'feel their pain'" (Benton, 7/26).
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Paul Johnson yesterday urged incumbent Gov. Jane Hull (R) "to gather state lawmakers back into special session to rein in the 'profit-motivated arrogance' of managed health care organizations." Johnson "is demanding regulations that ensure doctors -- not cost-conscious health maintenance organizations -- make final decisions about a patient's medical needs and that offer job protection for doctors who buck HMOs on behalf of patient care." The Arizona Republic notes that Hull "lost no time in rejecting Johnson's" request. A spokesperson said Hull "is aware of only a 'general sense of unhappiness' with managed care but nothing specific enough to require gathering the state's lawmakers" (Kossan, 7/27).
Today's Hartford Courant reports that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Kennelly "will propose a state law allowing patients to sue managed care providers for negligence." Kennelly, who currently represents Connecticut in the U.S. House, will unveil her "Patient Protection Act" today in Hartford (Pazniokas, 7/27).