Ted Kennedy on HMOs:
Then and Now
June 22, 2001
Then. . .
Just five years after the HMO Act of 1973 was signed
into law, the U.S. Senate Committee on Human Resources,
Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, held
a hearing to discuss amending the Act. Following are
excerpts from Senator Ted Kennedy's opening statement
at the March 3, 1978 hearing:
"Today the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research
holds hearings on proposed amendments to federal statutes
supporting the development of health maintenance organizations...These
amendments would extend and strengthen current authorities
supporting HMOs in this country....
"As the author of the first HMO bill ever to pass
the Senate, I find this spreading support for HMOs truly
gratifying. Just a few years ago, proponents of health
maintenance organizations faced bitter opposition from
organized medicine. And just a few years ago, congressional
advocates of HMOs faced an administration which was
long on HMO rhetoric, but very short on action.
"The current revival of the HMO movement should come
as no surprise. HMOs have proven themselves again and
again to be effective and efficient mechanisms for delivering
health care of the highest quality. HMOs cut hospital
utilization by an average of 20 to 25 percent compared
to the fee-for-service sector. They cut the total cost
of health care by anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. And
they accomplish these savings without compromising the
quality of care they provide their members.
"In fact, many medical experts argue that the peer
review built into group practice in the HMO setting
promotes a quality of care superior to that found in
the traditional health care system.... "In our enthusiasm
to see HMOs proliferate throughout this country we should
not lose sight of the need to guarantee the quality
and integrity of the prepaid plans we create."1
. . . and Now
On May 15, 2001, Senator Ted Kennedy released a
statement regarding the need for an effective patients'
bill of rights to end HMO abuse. Following are excerpts
from that press release:
"Today, if your child has a rare congenital heart
defect and no specialist in the plan is equipped to
treat it, your [HMO] plan can condemn your child to
second rate care from the doctor who happens to be on
the plan's list....
"Today, if you have incurable cancer and your best
hope of a cure is participation in a clinical trial,
your [HMO] plan can deny you access to that trial....
"Today, your doctor can be financially coerced by
your HMO into giving you less than optimal care....
"Today, if you need an expensive drug that is not
on your plan's list, the [HMO] plan can make you pay
for it yourself or go without....
"The list goes on and on....
"It is time to end the abuses of managed care that
victimize thousands of patients each day. It is time
for doctors and nurses and patients to make medical
decisions again, not insurance company accountants.
The American people deserve prompt action, and we intend
to see that they get it."2
1U.S. Senate, Committee on
Human Resources, Subcommittee on Health and Scientific
Research, "Health Maintenance Organization Act Amendments
of 1978," March 3, 1978 (Washington: Government Printing
Office, 1978), pp. 1-3.
2Statement of Senator Edward
M. Kennedy Regarding the Patients' Bill of Rights, May
This article was originally published in the May/June
2001 issue of Health