Ending HMO “Drive Thru Deliveries”

    When HMOs tried to save some money by discharging newborns and their mothers from the hospital as early as eight hours after birth, Consumer Watchdog drove Congress to ban the so-called “drive-through deliveries.”

    The practice caught Congress’s eye only after a Kaiser HMO bureaucrat got a little too cute in a memo written to staff at the HMO’s flagship Sunset Boulevard hospital in Los Angeles. [See memo below.]

    A whistleblower gave us the memo, titled “Positive Thoughts Regarding the Eight Hour Discharge.” Among the “reasons” given for hospital staff to explain the hasty departure to new moms were “hospital food is not tasty” and “better bonding with siblings at home.”

    Our exposure of the memo to the media became big news and was soon the subject of congressional hearings. Not only were the HMOs slighting motherhood, but data showed that newborns discharged early were twice as likely to end up in the emergency room with problems that proved to be expensive.

    HMO executives were confronted with their penny-wise, pound-foolish policy. The rare glimpse into the cynical attitude of an HMO administration, coupled with exposures about mothers thrown out of the hospital before they learned to breast-feed, drove a Newt Gingrich–controlled Congress to require that newborns and their mothers not be discharged from the hospital any sooner than forty-eight hours without their consent.

    Congress rarely acts quickly, but when it does it’s because there is little doubt what the public wants and that those who oppose the public’s interest, like HMOs, cannot be trusted because they are so out of step. Only our opponents’ mistakes can demonstrate so clearly why things need to change.

    Excerpted from The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell: How To Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws And Get The Change We Voted For (Chelsea Green).