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Ted Kennedy on HMOs:
Then and Now

June 22, 2001

Then. . .

Just five years after the HMO Act of 1973 was signed into law, the U.S. Senate Committee on Human Resources, Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, held a hearing to discuss amending the Act. Following are excerpts from Senator Ted Kennedy's opening statement at the March 3, 1978 hearing:

"Today the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research holds hearings on proposed amendments to federal statutes supporting the development of health maintenance organizations...These amendments would extend and strengthen current authorities supporting HMOs in this country....

"As the author of the first HMO bill ever to pass the Senate, I find this spreading support for HMOs truly gratifying. Just a few years ago, proponents of health maintenance organizations faced bitter opposition from organized medicine. And just a few years ago, congressional advocates of HMOs faced an administration which was long on HMO rhetoric, but very short on action.

"The current revival of the HMO movement should come as no surprise. HMOs have proven themselves again and again to be effective and efficient mechanisms for delivering health care of the highest quality. HMOs cut hospital utilization by an average of 20 to 25 percent compared to the fee-for-service sector. They cut the total cost of health care by anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. And they accomplish these savings without compromising the quality of care they provide their members.

"In fact, many medical experts argue that the peer review built into group practice in the HMO setting promotes a quality of care superior to that found in the traditional health care system.... "In our enthusiasm to see HMOs proliferate throughout this country we should not lose sight of the need to guarantee the quality and integrity of the prepaid plans we create."1

. . . and Now

On May 15, 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy released a statement regarding the need for an effective patients' bill of rights to end HMO abuse. Following are excerpts from that press release:

"Today, if your child has a rare congenital heart defect and no specialist in the plan is equipped to treat it, your [HMO] plan can condemn your child to second rate care from the doctor who happens to be on the plan's list....

"Today, if you have incurable cancer and your best hope of a cure is participation in a clinical trial, your [HMO] plan can deny you access to that trial....

"Today, your doctor can be financially coerced by your HMO into giving you less than optimal care....

"Today, if you need an expensive drug that is not on your plan's list, the [HMO] plan can make you pay for it yourself or go without....

"The list goes on and on....

"It is time to end the abuses of managed care that victimize thousands of patients each day. It is time for doctors and nurses and patients to make medical decisions again, not insurance company accountants. The American people deserve prompt action, and we intend to see that they get it."2


1U.S. Senate, Committee on Human Resources, Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, "Health Maintenance Organization Act Amendments of 1978," March 3, 1978 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1978), pp. 1-3.
2Statement of Senator Edward M. Kennedy Regarding the Patients' Bill of Rights, May 15, 2001.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2001 issue of Health Freedom Watch, the bimonthly watchdog report published by the Institute for Health Freedom.

 
Policymakers should consider how their past health-care proposals have affected today's patients.