News Release

Analysts Decry Inaction by Congress on HMO Reform


WASHINGTON — The failure of Congress to pass legislation on health care reform before adjournment has angered many Americans. A number of doctors and health care analysts are available for interviews about Congressional inaction on a patient bill of rights to address problems with HMOs. Some of these specialists regard such a bill of rights as a necessary step, while others see it as a distraction that does not address the real crisis in the U.S. health care system.

Rasell, a doctor and an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said: “The protections considered by Congress were designed to stop real abuses that have occurred — not just to prevent some theoretical problems that might happen. For Americans to be confident of receiving high quality care in HMOs, a new form of health care to most people, they must be sure they will be protected from these abuses.”

Woolhandler, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, said: “Patient protection laws are little more than a placebo for health care’s problems: 16 percent of Americans medically uninsured, HMOs bribing and threatening doctors to get us to deny care to our patients, $100 billion wasted each year on excess health care paperwork. Double-digit cost increases are again expected. We need non-profit national health insurance.”
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A practicing physician, clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and co-author of Understanding Health Policy (1998), Bodenheimer said: “The government should ban for-profit HMOs. Non-profit HMOs have some problems, but they perform better than for-profit HMOs in general. Non-profits spend around 10 percent on administration while for-profits spend closer to 20 percent on administration and profit. That’s an enormous amount of our health care dollar that’s not going to direct health care services.”

Livingston, Executive Director of Health Access, which has helped lead the drive for a patient bill of rights in California, said: “There has been substantial bipartisan progress in passing a patient bill of rights in some states. This is to protect the doctor-patient relationship in ways that were not necessary with fee-for-service insurance. But some of the federal bills would actually undo that progress. The Gingrich bill would actually be a step back, since it exempts some health plans from tougher state regulations on a host of consumer protections. For example, Texas allows people to sue their HMO, and the Gingrich bill would prevent that.”
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For more information, contact the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan (541) 484-9167.