MANAGED CARE REFORM: Wilson Vetoes Medical Director Bills
On the last day he could act on legislation sent to him by Legislature, Gov. Pete Wilson yesterday angered consumer advocates by vetoing three similar HMO reform measures. The Sacramento Bee reports that Wilson rejected both SB 557 and SB 324, bills that would have required HMO medical directors to have a valid license to practice medicine in California before they could overturn a doctor's decision. The governor said the two measures would encourage medical malpractice suits and prompt "trial lawyers to prey upon innocent consumers and decent health-care professionals." In addition, Wilson vetoed AB 332, which contained the medical director licensing requirement as well as a provision that would have "prevented HMOs from denying recommended treatment to the most gravely ill patients unless a second doctor performs a physical examination." In his veto message, the governor said Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa's (D-Fremont) bill "was 'a bald attempt' to increase lawsuits and would ultimately lead to higher health care costs" (Smith, 10/1).
Three Strikes, You're Out
In reaction to the vetoes, Figueroa said, "This is Governor Wilson's third strike on HMO reform. Last year he complained mightily about how much he hated what he called 'piecemeal' legislation. But now that he's been given the chance to make the big changes, voters can see that he was never serious." She added, "His party is still addicted to the HMO lobby" (Figueroa release, 9/30). "The fact that Governor Wilson could not sign a bill which simply says licensed doctors should make medical decisions demonstrates this governor's obeisance to the HMO and insurance industry," said Jamie Court of Consumers for Quality Care (CQC release, 9/30). Court accused Wilson of "bowing to pressure" from the HMO industry, saying, "The only people who oppose these bills are HMOs. He is going to pay for this veto if he runs for president" (Sacramento Bee, 10/1).