MASSACHUSETTS: AG Candidates Focus On HMOs
Health care and HMO oversight has become a major issue in the race for Massachusetts attorney general, the Boston Globe reports. Because the state "Legislature failed to reach a compromise on a [managed care] reform measure before last week's session deadline," two candidates said they would attempt to reign in the industry if elected. Republican candidate Brad Bailey said "he would refile legislation similar to the plan that was stalled in the House for months this year. He said, "It should be the attorney general's office that sets up a hotline to help health care consumers get the answers they need about their coverage. It should be the attorney general's office that makes sure people get all the health care they are paying for. And it should be the attorney general's office that investigates and if necessary, prosecutes fraud and deception."
State Senator Lois Pines, a Democratic candidate, said she would "immediately review all HMO contracts in the state to determine if there is a pattern of denying patients care." Pines, "who wrote the law allowing new mothers to spend more than 24 hours in the hospital" post-delivery, said the AG's office could set up systems that would accomplish most of what the failed House bill intended. "[Patients] can't sue HMOs now, but the attorney general can," she said. She said she would also form an independent "health care bureau to review complaints, pursue civil and criminal cases against HMOs for unfairly denying health care, and investigate the practice of giving bonuses to doctors who do not refer patients to specialists." Pines pointed out that another opponent of hers, Middlesex District Attorney Thomas Reilly, said during their debate that there were currently no cases pending against HMOs in the attorney general's office. A Reilly spokesman, however, said the statement "was not meant to reflect a lax attitude toward health care." He said, "Tom has talked about health care since he got into the race and he understands that there are problems surrounding HMOs" (Cassidy, 8/6).