HMO REGULATION: Question For Legislature Is How To Structure New Agency
While just a year ago "the notion of creating a new regulatory agency to oversee the managed health care industry was a controversial, if not radical, idea in the Legislature," the climate in the state has shifted to the extent that when a "conference committee on managed-care reform held its first meeting Tuesday ... the only areas of controversy were the questions of under what agency the new body would be placed and how it would be structured." The Ventura County Star notes that HMO regulatory functions are now performed by the Department of Corporations, which falls under the Department of Business, Transportation and Housing. However, a consensus has emerged that the agency is "ill-equipped to deal with complaints about the quality of health care." Dale Bonner, commissioner of the Department of Corporations, said, "It's time to give the plans and consumers an agency where its sole function is oversight of managed care."
The Big Ideas
Three sets of proposals have emerged from the talks. Gov. Pete Wilson, the state Managed Care Task Force, the Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry support creating "a new department focused exclusively on managed care and headed by a director appointed by the governor." The California Medical Association, legislative Democrats and consumer groups "propose an independent five-member board under the Department of Consumer Affairs ... with some members appointed by the governor and some by the Legislature." Finally, the "chairwoman of the Assembly Insurance Committee proposes moving the regulatory authority to the insurance commissioner, an elected position" (Herdt, 2/26).