PATIENT RIGHTS: Democrats Release Rival HMO Reform Bill
State Assembly Democratic leaders yesterday introduced their own legislation designed to protect patients' rights, the Family Health Care Rights Act (release, 2/2). The move comes "only days after Gov. Pete Wilson set forth his point-by-point HMO reform agenda," the Los Angeles Times reports. The sponsors of the bill said Wilson "has not gone far enough down the road of reform." Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante (D-Fresno), said that if passed, the five-point package "would constitute 'the bedrock of California's health care system.'"
"Included in the plan is the right to retain one's doctor even if the physician leaves the health plan; the right to medical treatment as recommended by a doctor; access to information about medical benefits; the right to emergency care on demand and assurances of medical records' confidentiality," the Los Angeles Times reports (Vanzi, 2/3). "Most of the bills outlined Monday were ones introduced last year and stalled" by Wilson's pronouncement last summer that he would wait for recommendations by his managed care task force before signing any HMO legislation. Included are bills "requiring a minimum stay for mastectomies, second opinions, coverage for contraceptives and mental illness and denial of care decisions to be made by a doctor," the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (2/3).
You Say Potato
The Democrats' proposal is in agreement with Wilson's on several initiatives, including "the creation of a state agency to oversee the managed care industry." However, the Democrats want to mandate contraception coverage by HMOs, while Wilson's plan recommends that contraceptives simply be made available. In addition, the Democrats' plan "would prohibit the termination of a doctor from a health plan or physicians' group without cause." Wilson has said he will only sign managed care reform bills that are "fiscally prudent and [do] not include costly mandates" (Times, 2/3). State Rep. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) said, "But cost is not everything, particularly when you're talking about the health of a loved one. As HMO executives continue to focus on the bottom line, it is our responsibility to make sure they don't cut into the ability of doctors and nurses to provide the quality health care that every Californian has the right to expect" (release, 2/2).