When the doors are slammed on a meeting between government and
industry, the excuse is usually that a "frank exchange" must be
allowed. The reality is too often that there's something to hide. So it
is with today's private meeting, reported by the LA Times, between the California Department of Managed Health Care and the state's biggest health insurers.
The topic is what the state should do about insurers' policy of
rescinding coverage after a patient files a claim. Adding more
suspicion, the meeting comes amid a swirl of reports that politicos on
the staff of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are pressuring the health care
agency to pull back on tough proposed regulations to protect patients
from this appalling practice.
See Consumer Watchdog's letter to the governor,
protesting any political interference. We're hoping that when
state Senate Health Committee chair Sheila Kuehl holds hearings on the
DMHC and health insurance rescissions tomorrow, she'll pick up this
issue and shake it hard.
Bowing to health insurers wouldn't be Schwarzenegger's first foray against supposedly independent agency decisions.
Most recently, he fired
actor Clint Eastwood and brother-in-law Bobby Shriver from the state
parks commission, reportedly because they opposed a multilane
high-speed toll road through the San Onofre State Beach park.
Last June, Schwarzenegger's political staff interfered with
clean air rule-making at the state air resources board and when that
didn't work, Schwarzenegger fired the board's environmentally strong
Consumer advocates also worry that the governor, who rarely sides
with consumers against industry, will do the same thing to California
Energy Commission proceedings about the "hot fuel" ripoff of motorists by the oil industry.
The governor's attitude seems to be that he appointed 'em, and they do what he and his buddies want. Or else. Even Clint.