President Clinton announced last week that a federal commission will examine ways to ensure quality healthcare for consumers, with an eye on how managed care affects quality of care.
Administration officials were careful to say the commission will look at all types of delivery systems, rather than focus solely on managed care. However, in a campaign speech in Florida announcing the new panel, Clinton endorsed two bills generally considered to be anti-managed care. One would require health plans to cover 48-hour hospital stays for new mothers, and another is designed to prohibit managed-care plans from restricting information physicians can give patients.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who will head the commission along with HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, said the panel was needed because of an increasing number of complaints the administration had received from consumers about managed-care plans.
Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Health Plans, which represents managed-care plans, said the AAHP "welcomes a chance to participate in a process that looks at how the healthcare system is working for consumers."
The panel will be composed of as many as 20 consumers, providers, insurers and labor leaders.
According to administration officials, the panel will set the health agenda for a second term if the president is re-elected.
It was in a 1992 campaign speech that Clinton laid out his healthcare reform ideas that later became the White House's 1,400-page reform plan.
In other campaign speeches, Clinton already has supported a subsidy plan to help temporarily unemployed workers continue to pay for healthcare and a program to subsidize health insurance for children.
Republican leaders said the panel was an election-year ploy and a precursor to another "government run" health plan. House Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-Texas) called on the administration to open the commission's meetings to the public. The meetings of a previous White House healthcare commission in 1993 and 1994 were closed.