Advocates, Foes Tug at Health Care Reform
Godfrey, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The politics and policy of managed care reform are reaching a critical stage as advocates try to mend the system and opponents argue that it needs no doctoring.
Congress is expected to recess in about three months and has done little work on the issue. With the November elections approaching, it's now crunch time for legislation to change the way health maintenance organizations and managed care providers do business, say Hill aides and industry sources.
"This is the hot issue for the next couple months," said Richard Coorsh of the Health Insurance Association of America. Congress will approve something, "but beyond that it's going to be difficult to predict."
Jeremiah Nixon, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, said managed care could be one of the main issues in his campaign.
"It's less talked about [than other issues], but it's a lot more powerful," said Mr. Nixon, the state's attorney general. "It really touches people individually."
In the House, the managed care issue could come to a head as early as July, when proponents of one bipartisan HMO reform bill might have their last chance to force it to a vote.
Republican leaders oppose it, saying the plan would create more government regulations and increase the cost of health care. Democrats counter that Republicans are in the pockets of big business and want to avoid a vote, or to vote instead for a watered-down version.
The bill would repeal a federal law preventing patients from suing their health care providers for malpractice and would require health care providers to pay for emergency room visits.
Hoping to slow support for the bill and others like it, the HMO and managed care industries are revving up advertising campaigns.
An advertisement paid for by the American Association of Health Plans features a pinata being struck repeatedly as an announcer says the newest game for politicians is "bashing HMOs and other health plans to trick you into voting for them. …