HMO REFORM: Davis Convenes Task Force
A day after he warned legislators to go slow on managed care reform, Gov. Gray Davis "called a series of private meetings during the Legislature's summer break to come up with" an HMO reform package. However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that plans for meeting are "creating a furor among the lengthy list of the apparently uninvited." State Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), who will be attending the meetings, said the list of attendees "includes health plan representatives, three corporate chief executives and only one consumer representative, who happens to be seeking a high-level post in the Davis administration." In a letter to Maria Contreras-Sweet, secretary of business, transportation and housing, Figueroa wrote, "I am very concerned about what I know about the makeup of the task force. Numerous consumer and provider groups have been active in these discussions for years, and are the ones who are the most affected by what we do."
Timing Is Everything
The Chronicle reports that the timing of the announcement of the task force, "just three days after the governor met with six HMO executives at a fund-raiser that garnered a reported $125,000," is raising questions among consumer advocates. Consumers for Quality Care's Jamie Court said, "This is cash register politics at its worst. I believe the money Davis raised last week will tar him for the rest of his political career if he doesn't do the right thing on HMO reform." Davis' press secretary, Michael Bustamente, wouldn't commend on the fundraiser, but defended the governor's closed-door approach to the task force. He said, "This is an opportunity for the governor's staff to listen to what folks have to say." Assembly Health Committee Chair Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park), who will attend the meetings, also backed the approach, saying the governor had promised substantial reform. "I am glad to see the governor is now engaged in the HMO reform issue," he said (Russell, 7/16).
Everyone Has An Opinion
A Los Angeles Times editorial chastises Davis for deciding to form a task force after "the Legislature has spent considerable effort to develop and refine its own measures," and says Davis "should have outlined his own plan months ago." And it adds, "[E]ven if there was no connection, it was unseemly for Davis to intervene on the health bills right after pulling in $100,000 in campaign contributions at a reception held by health industry executives" (7/16). In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Jamie Court writes that Davis "has more power than almost any other elected official in the nation to shape a better health care system." He writes: "The greatest pitfall for Davis would be to defer to the HMO industry's own argument that to embrace reform would lead to greater costs at a time when premiums are already escalating" (7/14).