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California's Proposition 214: The HMO Patient Rights Initiative

As we inch closer to November elections, Proposition 214, the HMO Patient Rights Initiative, is building momentum with California voters. Everyday we read about HMOs interfering in the doctor-patient relationship, making medical decisions that only doctors should make.

Lynnie Morgan, a Concord homemaker, is one of many consumers fighting their HMOs to pay for doctor-recommended tests. "We don't want to waster precious time battling HMOs when we could be spending time with our loved one," says Morgan. She has been picketing Kaiser on behalf of her daughter, Amy, who is dying of a disease not yet formally diagnosed. Morgan's HMO has denied Amy test recommended by specialists.

Harry Christie is also battling his HMO. FHP/Take Care refuses to pay for surgery for Christie's 12-year old daughter who has a rare cancer. "We need to return medical decisions to doctors, nurses, and patients -- not HMO bureaucrats who have no ethical responsibility to provide quality medical care," says Christie.

The California Coalition of United Cerebral Palsy Associations, California Chapters of the National Multiple Sclerosis society, and other groups such as Physicians Who Care know that the health care system well, support Prop. 214.

Under Prop. 214, written and unwritten gag rules that limit the freedom of speech between patients and health care workers will be prohibited. Prop. 214 is the only health care initiative with a "just cause" provision, to protect doctors, nurses, and other health care workers from being wrongfully fired when they advocate for their patients.

Prop. 214 will also prohibit HMOs from paying bonuses or financial incentives to doctors for withholding or delaying needed patient care. These incentives punish doctors who advocate for their patients. Prop. 214 would require HMOs to give patients the right to a second opinion before denying medical care.

You can reach Californians for Patient Rights in Los Angeles at (310) 441-8511; in Oakland at (510) 433-9360; or in Sacramento at (916) 444-7195.

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