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Apr 19, 2004 - 03:00 PM

Outsourcing Disabled Health Care

by Jerry Flanagan
ArnoldWatch tipsters tell us that Arnold, as part of his 'Medi-Cal redesign plan,' wants to force the disabled in the program to join corporateering HMOs whose high overhead costs and capped payments mean that patient care gets short changed. The plan would be an outsourcing dream come true for state HMOs, which have given $300,000 to the Gov's various fundraising committees. After all, what disabled patient would choose an HMO of their own volition, since an HMO's reason for being is to limit access to care for those who need it?

This is not the first time that Arnold has allowed private industry to come up with its own rules. In each case the "cost savings" mantra has been used to obscure the financial rewards being given to some of Arnold's biggest campaign contributors. Last week, for example, the Deregulinator pulled the plug on regulating the profiteering workers' compensation insurers. On his second day in office, Arnold's Executive Order No. 2 froze hard-fought patient protection rules at the Department of Managed Health Care which oversees state HMOs. Arnold has also directed his policy team to develop a plan to re-deregulate the state's electric utilities -- the first attempt at which cost ratepayers billions in overcharges.

Under the Governor's Medi-Cal "redesign" plan taxpayers could pay more for less care. That's because HMOs providing Medi-Cal coverage are allowed to spend up to 15% of every dollar on overhead, administration, advertising, executive salaries and profit. To maintain their profit margins, HMOs will make it more difficult for the patients to access specialized care, limit which hospitals and physicians they can visit, and override physician recommendations. While these limitations are onerous for any patient, such restrictions on the ill and disabled could significantly undermine their health and quality of life. It's time again for Arnold to take stock of why he got involved in the Special Olympics in the first place. (Maybe Eunice Shriver, who founded the group, should give him another call).

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