HMO REGULATION: Insurance Commissioner Wants To Step Up Oversight
At a Town Hall Los Angeles luncheon yesterday, state Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush said HMOs are often "unresponsive to consumers" and that current HMO regulation is "completely inadequate," the Los Angeles Times reports. While he expressed a willingness to have his agency begin regulating HMOs, Quackenbush said he doubted "that the Legislature would grant the state Insurance Department the sweeping powers it would require." Given this reality, Quackenbush said the issue "may as well be left under the control of Gov. Pete Wilson." The insurance commissioner noted that Wilson already has the "authority" and "ability" to "increase surveillance" of the managed care industry in California.
Is He Genuine?
Quackenbush, a Republican, is currently campaigning for a second term as commissioner. Marin County Supervisor Hal Brown, one of his two Democratic challengers, said, "[Quackenbush] hasn't said one word on this issue until right now, while I have been pushing for reform for a year, since I started campaigning." Brown advocates a bill of rights for California HMO consumers, which would give doctors and patients sole control over whether a patient goes to the hospital and how long the hospital stay should last. Jamie Court, director of Consumers for Quality Care, disputed Brown's contention that Quackenbush has been silent on HMO reform, noting that Quackenbush "has occasionally suggested that he might regulate the industry." Court said, "We'd accept the insurance commissioner as a regulator, and prefer it to the current appointed position under the governor's office." He added, "Right now, it seems the regulation has been accountable only to the governor's campaign contributions." The Times notes that Wilson last week announced plans for creating a new Department of Managed Health Care (see CHL 5/4) (Reich, 5/6).