MANAGED CARE REFORM: Surge Of Change Anticipated After Wilson’s Exit
Managed care plans and physicians agree that the departure of Gov. Pete Wilson -- who vetoed a whopping 27 managed care reform bills -- and the swearing in of a new governor will almost certainly mean greater oversight for health plans. The American Medical News reports that public support for Wilson's "tough stance" on health reforms declined by the end of his term, with even the editorial page of the "Republican- leaning" Orange County Register calling him "a brick wall, blocking major change." Thus, the "floodgates will likely be opened" for HMO reform no matter who is elected this fall -- Democrat Gray Davis or Republican Dan Lungren. Both candidates have endorsed managed care reform measures in their campaigns, "including a patient's right to sue an HMO for withholding needed medical treatment." However, American Medical News notes that "[w]hoever wins the gubernatorial race may soften his support" for major health reforms. Tom Riley, California lobbyist for the American Association of Family Physicians, noted that the candidates' political ads "focus on visceral issues that shed little light on actual policy."
Public health advocates are unlikely to shed any tears over Wilson's absence. Jamie Court, director of Consumers for Quality Care, said, "He was the worst governor for patients in the history of the state. He just turned his back on the populist outrage." Business groups, however, may be sorry to see Wilson go. Fred Main of the California Chamber of Commerce lauded the Governor's efforts to avoid "fancier policies that are only available to far fewer people." Main predicted that Wilson would be remembered favorably for his refusal to "give out the goodies because it will have a negative impact five years down the road" (Page, 10/19 issue).
Wilson announced yesterday that he has reappointed Clifford Allenby and S. Kim Belshe to the state Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board. Allenby chairs the board and also serves as director of the State Department of Developmental Services. Belshe is director of the State Department of Health Services and also serves on the Interagency Coordinating Council and on the board of the National Academy for State Health Policy. Both reappointments are subject to confirmation by the state Senate. (Wilson release, 10/21).