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Consumer Group Warns of Potential HMO & Insurance Industry Influence over Assembly Health Committee

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Points to Significant HMO & Insurer Contributions to Members while Important Patient Protection Bills Hang in the Balance


The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) released data today on HMO and insurance industry contributions to members of the Assembly Committee on Health. Figures for the 2001/2002 election cycle already reach as high as $168,233 (Wesson, D-Culver City) and 20.92% of total contributions (Aanestad, R-Grass Valley). A full comparison of contributions to Health Committee Members is attached and will updated regularly.

“With sole authority over the potential advancement, stagnation, or demise of critical patients rights bills, it is imperative that the actions of the Assembly Health Committee are entirely untainted by the potential conflicts of interest inherent in industry contributions,” said consumer advocate Emmy Rhine of FTCR. “The degree of influence achieved though political donations is difficult to gauge. But with mounting contributions from the likes of Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Cigna, Aetna, Kaiser‘s Medical Group and others, it is clear that special treatment is being unabashedly pursued by insurers.”

Close monitoring of past and future treatment of a range of important patient protection bills may provide an indication of industry influence:

‘ SB 458 (Escutia) would allow patients a choice of court or arbitration under California’s right-to-sue law, ending the mandatory arbitration agreements forced upon patients who wish to recover damages against HMOs for corporate negligence. Unlike previous bills dealing with HMO arbitration which were sent only to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, SB 458 has been double referred to the Assembly Committee on Health since its passage from the Senate in May of 2001. The bill is currently awaiting an as yet unscheduled Assembly Health Committee hearing.

‘ AB 798 (Shelley) would require a health care service plan to provide an enrollee, age 60 years or older, access to the medical services of any specialist of the enrollee’s choice, if the specialist is licensed by the State of California, including those specialists who are not under contract to the plan. The bill was introduced to the Assembly Committee on Health on March 12, 2001. It remained in the committee and died there on February 7, 2002.

‘ AB 1464 (Thomson). Existing law requires reporting of health facility or clinic data for use by all state agencies. This bill would delete provisions of the reporting requirement that permits health facilities operated as a coordinated group or under common management — such as Kaiser — to report as a group rather than as individual institutions. Though the bill passed the Assembly on May 31 2001, it has since been held unheard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by the stalling actions of its very own author and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, Helen Thomson. Incidentally, Thomson ranked first in total contributions (99-02) from Kaiser‘s Political Action Committee, Physicians for the Group Practice of Medicine.

‘ AB 1600 (Keeley-Richman) would guarantee patients and physicians the right to contest any violation of the Knox-Keene Act in court, thereby providing an alternative to relying on the Department of Managed Health Care to address all unjust health plan practices. It would also allow for a mediation process whereby the parties would retain the option of settling in advance of a trial. The bill is currently in the Assembly awaiting concurrence of Senate amendments and may be referred to the Assembly Committee on Health.

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Assembly Committee on Health Members

2001/2002 Insurer Contributions Comparison

(as of February 7, 2002)

In Order of Greatest Total Insurer Contributions:

Assemblymember Total Insurer Contributions Total Contributions % Contributions from
Insurers
Herb
Wesson
$168,233.00 $2,151,290.46 7.82%
Patricia C. Bates $36,870.56 $245,003.90 15.05%
Edward
Chavez
$35,100.00 $247,321.31 14.19%
Dario
Frommer
$34,750.00 $364,346.33 9.54%
Keith
Richman
$34,261.00 $242,567.12 14.12%
Rebecca
Cohn
$30,500.00 $266,996.24 11.42%
Helen Thompson,
Chair
$25,550.00 $150,129.48 17.02%
Paul
Koretz
$23,018.80 $249,018.80 9.24%
Robert
Pacheco
$20,750.00 $109,850.00 18.89%
Darrell
Steinberg
$18,750.00
$412,194.42 4.55%
Charlene
Zettel
$18,000.00 $152,256.00 11.82%
Wilma
Chan
$12,600.00 $249,050.00 5.06%
Simon
Salinas
$11,750.00 $140,723.82 8.35%
Samuel M. Aanestad, Vice
Chair
$11,600.00 $55,450.00 20.92%
George
Runner
$10,750.00 $119,795.00 8.97%
Richard L.
Dickerson
$9,175.00
$239,649.60 3.83%
Judy
Chu
$8,000.00 $553,096.25 1.45%
Howard
Wayne
$6,500.00 $115,534.68 5.63%
Gloria Negrete
McLeod
$4,600.00 $129,347.33 3.56%
Carl
Washington
$1,500.00
$27,640.00 5.43%

In Order of Greatest % of Total Contributions:

Assemblymember Total Insurer Contributions Total Contributions % Contributions from
Insurers
Samuel M.
Aanestad, Vice Chair
$11,600.00
$55,450.00 20.92%
Robert
Pacheco
$20,750.00 $109,850.00 18.89%
Helen Thompson,
Chair
$25,550.00 $150,129.48 17.02%
Patricia C.
Bates
$36,870.56 $245,003.90 15.05%
Edward
Chavez
$35,100.00 $247,321.31 14.19%
Keith
Richman
$34,261.00 $242,567.12 14.12%
Charlene
Zettel
$18,000.00 $152,256.00 11.82%
Rebecca
Cohn
$30,500.00 $266,996.24 11.42%
Dario
Frommer
$34,750.00 $364,346.33 9.54%
Paul
Koretz
$23,018.80 $249,018.80 9.24%
George
Runner
$10,750.00 $119,795.00 8.97%
Simon
Salinas
$11,750.00 $140,723.82 8.35%
Herb
Wesson
$168,233.00 $2,151,290.46 7.82%
Howard
Wayne
$6,500.00 $115,534.68 5.63%
Carl
Washington
$1,500.00
$27,640.00 5.43%
Wilma
Chan
$12,600.00 $249,050.00 5.06%
Darrell
Steinberg
$18,750.00
$412,194.42 4.55%
Richard L.
Dickerson
$9,175.00
$239,649.60 3.83%
Gloria Negrete
McLeod
$4,600.00 $129,347.33 3.56%
Judy Chu $8,000.00 $553,096.25
1.45%

Prepared By The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR)

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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