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Jan 08, 2004 - 11:10 AM

HMO Gives To Get

by Jamie Court and Jerry Flanagan
Arnold has just logged in the maximum $21,200 from the big HMO Health Net, which is a state contractor for public assistance programs like Healthy Families. This should mean Health Net meets Schwarzenegger's definition of "special interest" -- an entity whose state contract he controls -- since Health Net is hoping for higher state payments from tomorrow's budget. Everybody's supposed to share the pain in the budget, but Health Net has reported a particularly healthy cash flow and big payments to their top execs. (B. Curtis Weston received $6.2million in salary alone, not including stock, in the most current reporting.)

Health Net already has a big voice in Arnold's inner court since the Gov's chief of staff was the HMO's top lobbyist. Patricia Clarey should know that the timing of January 5th contribution, the same week as Health Net's budget fate is determined, stinks of special interest influence.

Health Net is also facing legislative pressure for state regulation of its premiums since a new mandate for employers to pay for health care takes effect in 2006. And Health Net is opposing reporting even simple numbers to the state. The HMO is crying foul over AB 432, which simply requires public disclosure by county of the number of enrollees and the number of HMO-contracted physicians to makes sure that HMOs like Health Net meet state requirements for adequate access.

How the Gov handles the HMO's requests will determine whether Gray Davis, who received six figures from Health Net since 2000, is gone or is just being replaced in the sequel by a bigger name.

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