BUSH MEDICARE PLAN IS BOON FOR HMOs, NOT PATIENTS

St. Paul, Minnesota - The Bush plan for Medicare is an economic boon for managed care, says CCHC.

Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC), an independent health care policy organization, chides the Bush Administration for proposing to use prescription drug coverage to move senior citizens into HMOs.

"Offering prescription drug coverage to the elderly only if they join HMOs is merely an enticement to get the public to go where they don't want to go. It is also an absolute boon to HMOs. What Congress hasn't figured out is that if it works, HMOs will have the power they need to open wide the public purse strings. They will be the tail waving the dog and their costs will skyrocket not drop," said Twila Brase RN, president of CCHC, in response to today's Washington Post article.

HMOS FOR ALL

Brase, whose article "Blame Congress for HMOs" was published in the 2001 Congressional Record of the U.S. House of Representatives, claims that the latest proposal is just another step in what is now a 30-year process. She says that HMOs could never have gained dominance in health care without the endorsement of Congress through the passage of the HMO Act of 1973.

"The public was not asking for prior authorization, referral requirements, drug formularies and provider networks to become obstacles to health care access. That was a decision of Congress," says Brase.

"Congress' idea was, and has always been, to get everyone into HMOs. With the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, Congress quickly discovered how costly free health care was. They had to bar the gates. HMOs were the device they chose. And to make HMOs stable economically, Congress had to get the privately insured in HMOs as well," adds Brase.

Brase explains that federal policies and statutes have already forced most employers to offer HMOs to employees and allowed states to force much of the Medicaid population into HMOs, but less direct tactics have been used for the Medicare population.

POLITICAL SUICIDE AVOIDED

"Medicaid recipients have little political clout, but election campaigns are often funded by Medicare recipients. Congress understands that forcing the wealthy elderly into HMOs would be political suicide. The Bush Administration apparently thinks that luring seniors into HMOs with a drug benefit might be just the perfect political strategy to get seniors into managed care without committing political hara kiri."

"With the healthy skepticism senior citizens have acquired over the years, we hope seniors will take the time to tell the president what they think about this latest proposal."

CCHC's "Blame Congress for HMOs" can be read here.


Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President
Phone: 651-646-8935 (office)
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