Dynamist Blog


Dan Weintraub of the SacBee reports on a California regulatory initiative that could do some real damage:

Dr. Marcy Zwelling-Aamot is sick of being told how to care for her patients. So the Los Alamitos physician--and president of the Los Angeles County Medical Society--says that as of July 1, she will no longer be working with health insurance companies.

"I am divesting myself of every insurance contract," said Zwelling-Aamot, an internist. "I can offer better care less expensively to my patients. I have a list, a waiting list, and I haven't even started advertising yet."

Zwelling-Aamot hopes she is on the leading edge of a wave of the future, which would really be a return to the past. She envisions an era when doctors and patients once again deal directly with one another, without the reams of paperwork, authorizations, second-guessing and billing nightmares that come with the current system.

Most consumers would pay for routine doctor visits, and even for treatment of minor maladies, out of tax-free savings accounts, visiting any doctor of their choice without having to check first with an insurance company. They would carry a relatively simple form of insurance coverage only for major, unexpected medical problems whose costs would pose a threat to their financial independence.

But Zwelling-Aamot's dream of bureaucracy-free medical care is clouded by one thing: SB 2, the proposal heading for the November ballot that would require California companies with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance to their workers.

The idea sounds good at first. So good that it was enthusiastically supported by the California Medical Association, the state's largest professional physician group and the parent of Zwelling-Aamot's county medical society.But Zwelling-Aamot and a number of prominent CMA members fear that the measure, if approved by voters this fall, will bring the downfall of quality health care in California by putting still more distance between doctors and their patients.

"The politicians say that people are uninsured and we need to cover them," Zwelling-Aamot says. "But coverage doesn't mean care."

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