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NEWS RELEASE
Aug 16, 1999


CONTACT: Andrew Pontious - 310-392-0522 x308

Governor Davis Still "Missing" on HMO Reform

47 Patients & Families Receive No Answer on Request to Meet
Governor Gray Davis failed to reply in the requested one week time period to a letter inviting him to meet face-to-face with forty-seven California patients, and relatives of patients, harmed by their HMO or insurer. Unlike Davis, a public employee, the patients have no legal remedy against their HMOs, because they have private industry health coverage.

Davis is expected to meet today with legislative leaders to announce his HMO reform plan, but has yet to meet with patients. The invitation followed Davis' July fundraiser sponsored by HMO executives, and a subsequent July 20th meeting of his HMO reform task force consisting exclusively of legislators, HMO executives and business leaders, most of whom contributed to his campaign. The consensus of the group was that HMO liability should be limited.

"Patients should not be denied the same access to the governor's office as HMO executives," said Andrew Pontious, patient advocate with the non-profit, non-partisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "Governor Davis should not limit patients' rights without first hearing from patients. "

The patients had asked the Governor to respond to the non-profit, non-partisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) in Santa Monica, by August 13, 1999. Calls to the Governor's office by FTCR staff went unreturned through Monday and a written response had not been received. FTCR is the sponsor of SB21 (Figueroa), which allows all patients the same right to sue their HMO for full damages as government employees have.

"If the governor's HMO reform plan comes up short for patients, it will only be because he has refused to sit down with patients to discuss the reality of their plight," stated Jamie Court, advocacy director for FTCR. "Reforms should not be decided in a vacuum."

In the letter, the patients had written "unlike us, the majority of those in the room [at the task force] either can sue an HMO for full damages, because they are public employees, or work for an HMO...Because you have yet to sit in a room with HMO patients, you fail to recognize that only the threat of significant damages changes HMO behavior and deters wrongdoing."

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