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Copyright 1999 Newsday, Inc.  
Newsday (New York, NY)

July 22, 1999, Thursday, ALL EDITIONS


LENGTH: 479 words


BYLINE: Sidney Z. Cohn. Maureen M. Kaley, Gloria S. Rothenberg 

Republicans repeatedly accuse President Bill Clinton and the Democrats of trying to kill the "best health care system in the world." While they talk a good game, their No. 1 priority is to help the HMOs maintain their high profitibility. By the end of the Senate debate, the HMOs scored 100 percent but the Democrats' amendments for proper doctor-prescribed care for patients were defeated.

It is imperative that we not lose sight of the driving force behind the HMOs' success in the Senate. Republicans talked about passing a "meaningful" health bill. What was meaningful was that they guaranteed themselves large contributions for their campaigns from an industry that has been spending millions on lobbying, backed up by misleading advertisements (similar to the Harry and Louise ads of 1994), to defeat patients' rights bills proposed by Democrats.

The big insurance companies have been buying out HMOs, thus consolidating the industry. This speaks volumes to two facts: that HMOs can be a huge source of profits and they can maintain that high profitability by their control of Republicans in Congress.

The insurance industry stands almost alone in the debate among national organizations interested in health issues. The American Medical Association, cancer and heart groups and consumer and labor groups are among a vast majority of organizations that support the Democrats' proposals instead of the watered-down Republican plan.

Sidney Z. Cohn North Bellmore It is no surprise that we saw a report on poorer quality of care in for-profit HMOs "Study: Two Sides to HMO Care," July 14 as Congress debated the Patients' Bill of Rights   "Partisanship in Health Debate," July 14 .

Market-driven approaches to health care are a failure. Consumers are fed up, health professionals are frustrated and reports of horror stories about care that is delayed or denied are almost standard daily features in the media. The AMA's recent approval of unionization is an attempt to restore some balance to the decision-making process. The podiatrists affiliated with a union some time ago and the New York State Psychological Association approved a union affiliation last month.

We are dealing with a system that operates like a monopoly, and it takes strong measures to counteract such abuses. If the Senate lacks the courage to face the need for scrapping the entire market-driven system, the least it can do is give individual patients some clout by supporting the Patients' Bill of Rights. The president has already decreed most of these protections in health plans that cover federal employees and their families. Do other Americans deserve any less? Maureen M. Kaley Gloria S. Rothenberg Merrick Editor's Note: The writers are, respectively, president and cochairman of the legislative committee of the Nassau County Psychological Association.

LOAD-DATE: July 22, 1999

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