The Coastal Post - February, 1998

Insurance Companies Practicing Medicine Without A License

By Paul B. Stutrud

Many injured workers in the workers' comp system will tell you about how their medical care and therapy were delayed by the decision and stalling of an insurance adjuster deciding what treatment they would receive and when-sometimes months and sometimes years. Is this legal? Is it moral?

On top of this, we have this new brand style of HMO medical care where staff is cut back to the point of having people die because they do not get immediately needed medical attention. Kaiser hospitals have had a number of these unwarranted deaths in just the last several months. Why is this happening?

If we look at the overworked, stressed-out nurses and doctors who are working in worse than battlefield conditions, are we also looking at future workers' comp victims? It might be amusing to watch MASH on TV, and entertaining to watch other dramatizations of real life ER situations, but this is real life. People are really dying and not getting up off the gurney after the episode is done.

Kaiser in Martinez, Contra Costa County has cut back on its emergency care services and is planning to close that facility at the end of January. This is in spite of having 150 people per day showing up at the ER, but now having to wait for hours to be seen while they sit in pain and misery. Where will all those people go? They'll go to yet another overtaxed hospital and make the conditions that much worse for both patients, nurses and doctors. What is happening to our country that we are allowing this to happen?

What is the root cause of this drastic reversal and failing of our once-great medical system? Is there some kind of complicity between the insurance companies, hospital management and our state agencies that puts profits ahead of humanitarian care? Whether you are an injured worker on workers' comp or just someone who needs medical attention, patient care is secondary to the bottom line. What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

A federal inquiry should be made into the big picture of not only workers' comp but the entire medical/insurance situation.

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