Sponsors of Proposition 216, a California ballot initiative targeting a raft of HMO and healthcare system abuses, have challenged HMO executives to a debate.
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, and consumer activist Harvey Rosenfield, head of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said they want to debate David Lawrence, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente; Alan Hoops, chairman and CEO of PacifiCare; Howard Davis, president and CEO of Universal Care; Robert White, president and CEO of CareAmerica Health Plans; Leslie Margolin, president and general manager of Cigna HealthCare of California; and Mark Hyde, president and CEO of Lifeguard.
In a letter faxed to the executives, the initiative's sponsors said the debate would "educate voters as to the facts about the reckless commercialization of healthcare in California and how Proposition 216 will establish basic, conservative protections of traditional medical values.
"(HMO execs) have tried to hide behind a smoke screen of phony organizations and public relations firms-even nurse executives and nuns," the letter said.
According to the letter, one of the questions in the debate would be: "How much money will you spend in your misleading advertising?"
"We see this as a campaign tactic not worthy of a direct response, and we will be declining," said Janet Maira, spokeswoman for Taxpayers Against Higher Healthcare Costs, a coalition of HMOs and providers that oppose the initiative.
Labor gears up.The labor movement is stepping up its political activities this election year. The AFL-CIO is running advertisements singling out members of Congress (Republicans, naturally) to attack for their votes on Medicare and Medicaid.
The Service Employees International Union, the largest organization of healthcare workers, is laying it on especially thick. Andrew Stern, the new president of the SEIU, has asked his members to devote five days to political action, whether campaigning for a particular candidate or working on a state initiative. He is aiming for 5,000 pledges of activism, and as of the Democratic National Convention in late August, he had 1,800 in hand.
As a commitment to the project, the SEIU headquarters in Washington will be closed the last two weeks of the fall campaign. How much will that cost in lost productivity? Stern replies: "It will cost our members a lot of money if we elect the wrong politicians. We can either pay now or later."
Cleaning up the wasteland.It's entertainment to millions, but to John Nelson, an obstetrician in Salt Lake City, it's a public health tragedy.
Children are exposed to so much violence through television, movies, video games and recorded music that they live in a kind of "behavioral wasteland," he said. When a family friend of Nelson's was brutally murdered in a convenience store robbery, it turned out the killers had watched the movie "Magnum Force" 22 times.
"We know that media violence leads to real-life violence," Nelson said at the launch of the American Medical Association's campaign against media violence. At a press conference in Chicago, Nelson, an AMA trustee, and other physicians and public health experts presented the association's new Physician Guide to Media Violence.
The AMA thinks parents need to pay more attention to what their children are watching. The guide instructs doctors to take a "media history" of their patients, in hopes that it will alert them to the dangers of overexposure to violent images.
"Every day I see death and disability in my own hospital. They are victims of violence," said Marjorie Hogan, a pediatrician in Minneapolis. "There is a new morbidity out there."
Don't do it, Mr. President.The American Health Information Management Association is advising President Clinton to stick to his guns on his medical records.
Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole has made an issue of Clinton's refusal to release his complete medical history.
But the AHIMA, which represents people who keep medical records in hospitals and doctors' offices, thinks the release of this information "would set a dangerous precedent that could become an acceptable practice for the rest of the country."
"It would be a sad day for Americans," AHIMA President Ellen MacDonald wrote in an open letter to the president, "if we had to release our medical records before we could obtain jobs, go to college, drive a car or even travel." Actually, many major companies already use health information to make employment decisions.
The association suggests that no candidate for public office should be expected to release his or her medical records. Instead, "a physician's certification of good health" should be sufficient. The AHIMA says it's a matter of "maintaining an individual's right to privacy and protecting the confidentiality of health information."
When asked if this meant the information community was endorsing Clinton, AHIMA spokesman Jack Segal said: "No, we are not playing politics, but confidentiality has to be supported at the highest level."
Vision quest.Jermane Mayberry is a huge offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles football team. He is also legally blind in his left eye, largely because quality eye care wasn't available to him as a child.
So Mayberry, who was the Eagles' first-round draft pick earlier this year, became the driving force behind the Eagles' co-sponsoring a mobile eye clinic with Wills Eye Hospital of Philadelphia. On the day he signed his first pro contract, Mayberry contributed $100,000 to help fund the project. The hospital is providing ophthalmologists and opticians to staff the Eagles Eye-Mobile.
Technicians and support staff will be provided courtesy of the Philadelphia School District and Project Connect, a welfare training program operated by the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition.
Children who are most in need will be able to get free eye exams and prescription glasses at cost. The bus will be covered in images of the Eagles in action, and all children who get eye exams also get autographed trading cards of Mayberry.
"I want kids to know that it's important to get their eyes checked every year, and if they need glasses, to wear them like I do, proudly," Mayberry said.