HMOs, doctors trade opinions

by Melanie Evans

Minnesota’s medical providers and health insurers — two groups not known for seeing eye to eye — sat down for a dinner together Tuesday night on the University’s West Bank.
Concluding the School of Public Health’s day-long seminar called the “Minnesota Health Services Research Conference,” 150 state health professionals gathered in the Radisson Hotel Metrodome over stuffed tomatoes for a dinner speech from the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid director.
“The bottom line is quality, and it’s quality no matter what kind of health insurance you have,” said Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, director of the Health Care Financing Administration.
“But quality doesn’t begin and end in a doctor’s office,” she added, challenging the room to cooperate across the medical industry to provide America with affordable, fair health care.
Min DeParle’s address came on the heels of President Clinton’s surprise executive order Friday to extend his Patient Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to all Americans covered under government health plans, such as Medicare and Medicaid.
The two health care programs supply financial support for medical education and provide insurance for senior citizens, the disabled, and low-income families with children.
Introduced in December, Clinton’s bill of rights — intended to give consumers greater access to specialists and emergency care and Health Maintenance Organizations performance statistics — joined a flurry of legislation intended to check medicine’s new cost-conscious management.
“Americans have viewed the rapid rise of managed care with some legitimate fears about the quality of patient care, access to necessary services and privacy,” Min DeParle said. “I think all of us … have an obligation to allay those fears and promote quality.”
The event, sponsored by statewide health systems and HMOs, promotes an atmosphere for common respect and airing of common concerns, said Michael Finch, associate professor in Health Services Research and Policy.
“This dialogue that we present, the different opinions that we bring, the creative tension, is all what this conference is about,” he said.