PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Gore To Tout Issue To AARP
Vice President Al Gore will stress patients' rights in a speech to the American Association of Retired Persons today in Minneapolis, underscoring his party's message of protecting patients in a health care system that increasingly is dominated by managed care (Hamburger, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/3). In his speech to the AARP's national convention, Gore also will plug a Clinton administration plan that would reward senior citizens for their help in ferreting out health care providers who defraud the Medicare system, the AP/Los Angeles Times reports. "If you find fraud and abuse -- if you find providers who are exploiting the system and exploiting our seniors -- we'll pay you to report it," Gore said in remarks prepared for the convention. As the latest step in the federal government's attempts to curb Medicare fraud, the plan would "'deputize' all senior citizens by offering cash rewards for tips that pan out" (Love, 6/3).
The vice president also is expected to speak about the White House's commitment to Social Security and biomedical research -- among other issues of concern to the powerful "gray" lobby -- but he will focus on "the bureaucracy of managed care." Aides said Gore will tell the story of a Minnesota woman whose Minneapolis-based HMO denied her request to see a breast cancer specialist after 123 phone calls, the Star Tribune reports. "This is not managed care. It is 'managed costs,'" Gore said in an advance copy of his remarks. He added, "This year for the first time, managed care enrolled a majority of Americans in part because of the savings managed care offers. Those savings are a good thing, but when you have a health problem, the doctor's first question should be, 'Where does it hurt?' not, 'Will your health plan pay?'" Patients' rights have emerged as a "hot-button issue" this year as "[t]he White House has found that pushing for a health care bill of rights plays to growing American distress with managed care and the way it is changing traditional patient-doctor relationships." The issue also has taken on partisan dimensions as Republicans try to address growing public concern about managed care while keeping to the party line of minimal government involvement in the private sector (6/3).