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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Pete Wilson Vetoes Managed Care Legislation

The sneaky and craven Commandante of California, more euphemistically known as California Governor, Pete Wilson, revealed once again a deplorable phenomenon in the body politic; a Governor can be cruel and vicious in his vetoes and the citizenry, that is overwhelmingly in disagreement, feels that nothing can be mounted against such outrages.

Our country has had periods in its history when such behavior by politicians assured their political demise. Not so today. Many people either feel themselves powerless to do anything or suffer from a “pox on both (Republican and Democratic) your houses” attitude that leads to civic paralysis.

Consider what the cowardly Wilson did on the evening of Columbus Day, October 13, 1997 — the evening of that day in order to reduce newspaper and television coverage — a common tactic he employs. Wilson vetoed several bills, passed by both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature, to curb abuses by managed health care plans which cover, in a way, about 19 million Californians.

Let’s see if you agree or disagree with him. One bill would have allowed women who have undergone a mastectomy to stay overnight in the hospital. Two other bills would have required that only physicians, not clerks or corporate administrators, could deny care to patients and those denials had to be based on some explanation available to the patients.

Another legislation would have required health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to cover diabetes medication and certain screening procedures for prostate cancer. HMO plans have fine print that excludes illnesses and treatments which most consumers would expect to have covered if they got sick. HMOs love to cherry pick what they will cover and won’t cover, without any knowledge or negotiation rights by the insureds.

Still other bills would have prevented HMOs and other health care insurance companies from having access to patients’ mental health records without the patients’ permission. What would you think if your Governor hurled those vetoes in the face of sick people?

Now what does the Commandante say on his behalf. Why, he vetoes these bills because he appointed a 30 member task force last April (of which 20 are his own appointees) to study managed care and he wants to wait until 1998 for the Task Force’s report before making his recommendations.

In the meantime, newspapers are regularly headlining horrible deaths, injuries and illnesses caused by the very HMO rationing or excluding of health care for more and more Californians. Numerous public reports have revealed HMO protocols gagging physicians and nurses, over-riding their professional judgment and other profiteering moves that have enriched the top bosses of these HMOs far beyond their most extreme dreams of avarice. They each make many millions each year while their customers are denied treatments or are experiencing drive-through mastectomies or drive-through births of their children without an overnight stay.

His own aforementioned Task Force unanimously passed a resolution calling on Wilson to review each HMO reform bill sent to him on the merits, implying that he should not use the Task Force as a delaying or vetoing excuse while lives are at stake.

Nothing dissuaded this no-fault Governor because he can get away with it in a no-fault political atmosphere that smells to high heaven. Wilson may as well turn himself into a cold-blooded corporation with “profits uber alles” imprinted on his corporate seal. And this man, who has other veto blood on his hands, is beginning to test the waters for a Presidential run in the year 2000.

Wilson’s record is clear as a loud dirge — he goes for corporations against workers, consumers, children, the environment, clean elections and small savers — investors -¬≠again and again.

Hiding his ghoulish record behind an impish smile and a tactic that pits middle class people against poor people and their children (a position that even Texas Governor George Bush distanced himself from), this Governor of corporate privileges and corporate immunities needs a reality check by the citizens of California. They need to have a higher estimate of their civic power and organize before more of what they liked or expected about California slips away.