For many psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists and other health professionals, Rescue Health Care Day, April 1, was a therapeutic experience that encouraged them to vent pent-up rage about the bungling of managed care.
Organized for nearly two years by Karen Shore, Ph.D., who heads the National Coalition of Mental Health Providers and Consumers, Rescue Day was held in 42 cities, highlighted by serious discussions about the evils of managed care and peppered with hoots and whistles at rallies whenever managed care was mentioned. “Blow the Whistle on Managed Care” was one of the day’s themes.
However, the event drew little attention from members of Congress who would have to legislate the necessary changes but have been deadlocked for six months on the Patients Rights Bill. The bill easily passed the House last October and has since lingered in the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland (D-OH) was the only congressperson known to have attended the event, being the speaker at the Columbus, OH rally. Aside from Strickland, the demonstrations drew only a smattering of public officials, such as state representatives.
Media coverage, indispensable if the multi-city rallies are to result in significant change, was sparse judging by reports from many of the cities by the coalition’s own members. The Associated Press ran a brief account.
A report in Village Voice, a free New York City weekly which won a Pulitzer Prize this year, stated that “it takes more than felt hats with bells to get a hundred people out of bed and into the streets on a Saturday morning.” The account added tersely: “Many of those who showed up for the rousing speeches and folk songs (played by a flutist-psychoanalyst) were motivated at least in part by the impact that system has had on their own psychotherapy practices.”
While a single rally doesn’t solve longstanding problems, the unanswered question of the day remained: “Where do we go from here.”
In the reports that followed the rallies, that question was not addressed. The speeches reflected the problems experienced with managed care, the excess of paper work, and the enervating hassles encountered by practitioners over the years.
The Denver Post quoted John Pifkin, M.D. as saying the mental health system has been 80% destroyed during the past 10 years. He said it would get worse unless “we get our legislators to support something new. Invitations had been sent to all members of Colorado’s members of Congress, but none showed up, he said.
The crowds in the 42 locations ranged from 25 to 200, according to the reports.
Karen Shore, who spoke at the Mineola, NY rally, said “The biggest joke is that this is about higher quality care at low cost. Ha! Managed care is about money, not people.”
She continued: “We are here to declare a national vote of no confidence in the managed care industry and to call for a national dialogue on how to build a better alternative.”
But the Washington-based American Association of Health Plans, weighed in with an altogether opposite message. “People are still getting use to the concept of managed care,” said Mohit Ghose, spokesperson for the group. “We believe managed care done a lot for health care in this country. People are still getting used to the concept of managed care. They are still getting used to the fact that there is a way of giving a high quality of care while keeping costs in control.”
Richard Coorsh of the Health Insurance Assn. of America asserted that most Americans are satisfied with their health care, and added that the rallies were predominantly made up of health care providers worried about cuts in their includes. “The case against managed care has been built on anecdotes rather than evidence,” he said.