California Gov. Pete Wilson has made a bold move by calling for a moratorium on managed-care legislation until a blue-ribbon task force has time to study the issue.
In this time of managed-care battering by politicians and the media, we're not sure how many elected officials would follow the common-sense course laid out by the governor.
As in most states, California's Legislature has been bombarded with proposals on how to tame the managed-care monster that has disrupted the lives of millions of Americans. In some cases, HMOs and other managed-care plans have been their own worst enemies by mandating goofy policies designed to save money. The results often led to front-page headlines and public relations nightmares. "Gag orders" on physicians and 24-hour hospital maternity stays come quickly to mind.
But in other cases, politicians and special-interest groups have successfully rammed bills through the legislative maze. Some of these new laws protect or enrich the special interests but are of dubious public benefit.
Instead of a reactive, piecemeal approach, Wilson has asked the 30-member Managed Health Care Improvement Task Force to study many of the issues covered in the legislative proposals. The panel is expected to deliver its recommendations early next year.
Critics charge that Wilson has packed the task force with pro-business types. While he did appoint two-thirds of the members, it's a balanced team that should produce a report helpful in framing public policy responses to managed care. Although this is only a legislative timeout, Wilson's move at least gives California a fighting chance to achieve coherent, coordinated healthcare reform.