Insurance companies and HMOs are downgrading medicine from a profession that serves patients to a business that squeezes them. Under ''managed care," medical decisions are often made by insurance bureaucrats--instead of by doctors and nurses.
HMOs and insurance companies are increasingly controlling what doctors can say or do for you . . . Awarding bonuses to doctors for withholding treatment . . . Imposing ''gag rules" that censor what doctors or nurses tell patients about their treatment . . . Denying referrals to specialists . . . Forcing patients out of hospitals before they're fully recovered . . . Replacing nurses with untrained, low-wage workers to care for patients . . . Cutting medical staff, while assigning doctors and nurses more patients.
These practices are reaping billions of dollars for giant health corporations and Wall Street moguls. But substandard care and unsafe cost-cutting result in tragic and unnecessary deaths and injuries.
To maintain the quality and compassion of the health care system, it's time to put patients and qualified doctors and nurses back in control. That's why over 800,000 California voters, led by nurses and consumer advocates, have joined to pass Proposition 216, the Patient Protection Act.
Prop. 216 will:
1. Outlaw bonuses to doctors and nurses for withholding treatment.
2. Ban ''gag rules" that restrict physicians and nurses from discussing treatment options with patients.
3. Establish safe staffing levels in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes; ban the use of untrained personnel for patient care.
4. End arbitrary denial of medical treatment; require a written explanation and qualified second opinion before care may be denied.
5. Establish a self-funded, independent consumer watchdog group; require industry disclosure of safety and financial data.
6. Ban the sale of your private medical records without your permission.
7. Require detailed justification for premium increases.
Proposition 216 will save taxpayers money. According to the official State Legislative Analyst, the health care industry will pay all the costs of enforcing the initiative through penalty fees on wildly-excessive HMO salaries, multi-billion dollar hospital mergers and medical service reductions. Also, these fees will help cover the costs of crucial community programs such as emergency care and contagious disease prevention.
Voter Alert #1. If Prop. 216 passes, insurers will have to cut out waste and excess profits and reduce overhead, which consumes 31 cents of every $1 in premiums policyholders pay. So the giant health corporations are spending millions to frighten voters about ''big government, more taxes." Don't be misled. Under Prop. 216, taxpayers, businesses and California's economy benefit.
Voter Alert #2. Many voters are confused by Proposition 214, a different initiative. Only Prop. 216 establishes a consumer watchdog to protect against insurance abuse. And only Prop. 216 will prevent industry-funded politicians from easily overriding these voter-approved reforms in the Legislature.
The Patient Protection Act will best protect you and your family against unsafe and costly medical care. To guarantee that every reform in Prop. 216 becomes law, it must get more ''Yes" votes than Prop. 214. Remember, vote ''Yes" only on Prop. 216.
DR. HELEN RODRIGUEZ-TRIAS, M.D.
Former President, American Public Health Association
KIT COSTELLO, R.N.
President, California Nurses Association