The Supreme Court and the HMOs

The June 21st US Supreme Court ruling that HMOs are not responsible for medical malpractice even when their decisions and offerings for patient care result in negligent damages should come as no surprise. Nor should it be that the majority opinion was writtten by a member of the most conservative click on the bench, Justice Clarence Thomas. It is now over a dozen years since the then newly elected President Bill Clinton sent his unofficial cabinet member wife, Hillary Rodham, off to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to meet with a cabal of authorities. That were charged with formulating a universal health care system for the country, something the President had promised while on the hustings. The group consisted of six people from banking, insurance and finance, but not a single doctor, health care professional, union leader or consumer. The result further shamed our nation as being the world's only developed country without a universal federally -sponsored health care delivery program for all. We were left worse off after the group returned to the comforts of Washington and Wall Street.

Hillary Rodham was told of the insurance industry's, under banking aegis, taking over the entire private health care system, with the two federal systems, Medicaid and Medicare, not far behind. The Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) was strengthened as the overseer of the practice of medicine. Nurses, retired clinicians, technicians and other experts from the financial world made decisions as to lengths of patient stay, surgical permission and post op and hospital home care. Their bottom line was the HMO's bottom line. And this was done by long distance telephone. The HMOs became the purveyors of medical care. It was obvious that with medical practice also becoming more and more within the aspects of commercial US medical practice (no other nation in the world has such a litigation incidence or meaning), it was only a time bomb waiting to explode that eventually, patients were going to suffer from doctor and hospital neglect under HMO compliance and directives. Just last year there was a network TV drama depicting such a scenario, only in that fictional drama, the patient and her family won out. That is not the way it ever happens in real life. This new Court ruling only cements this egregious policy.

US medical practice has been taken away from the MD and is now in the hands of the MBA. Doctors are getting permission via that long distance 800 line to people who decide on the very aspects of patient care. Clarence Thomas, the rest of the Court and the entire Congress will never have to feel such a deprivation; their health care is of the finest order in Washington, with doctors and patients properly discussing their needs and carrying out the treatments. With Medicaid and Medicare as well starting to feel the sting of privatization and HMO control, even those insured will be under such dual control and that does yet not even address the over 40 million people without any health coverage at all.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has been silent about her Wyoming debacle a decade or so ago. There are no plans to actively debate health care in Congress this session, despite the several proposals in committee. We all await what the campaign this year will bring us and hopefully John Kerry will call President-select Bush down for his ignoring this burning issue. For now, the Court has solidified what we knew along - the people of the USA are being treated by a combination of authorities, and you can only seek redress from the half that doesn't have a licence to practice medicine.

--Don Sloan is assistant editor of Political Affairs, is a medical doctor and is preparing a manuscript titled 'Practicing Medicine Without a License: The Corporate Takeover of Health Care in USAmerica.'

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