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Governors May Oppose Medicaid Proposals -- Jan. 31, 1997

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Clinton Warns Against 'Gagging' Medicaid Doctors

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 20) -- Flanked by Vice President Al Gore, health secretary Donna Shalala and members of Congress, President Bill Clinton this morning issued a reminder to the nation's health care providers that doctors cannot be "gagged" when dealing with Medicaid patients.

"I'm directing Secretary Shalala to inform all state Medicaid directors that it's illegal for health care plans to prohibit doctors from discussing any treatment options with their patients," Clinton said.

Medicaid provides health care funding to the poor. So-called "gag rules" allegedly instituted by managed health care plans restrict doctors from recommending certain expensive or uncovered medical procedures. Health care executives deny the existence of such rules.

shalala

Clinton issued a similar order in December 1996, informing health care providers that "gag rules" would not be tolerated for Medicare, which provides medical care to the elderly.

The president also called on Congress to write and pass a bill that would prohibit "gag" rules for patients outside federal health programs. "We can act today to protect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, because they are federal programs and because government is the largest purchaser of managed care in our nation," Clinton said. "But to protect the 130 million Americans enrolled in managed care throughout the private sector, the Congress must act."

"What we are trying to do... is to strike the right balance, to permit managed care to go forward and even to flourish, but to try to set the conditions in which it will operate so that we guarantee that quality of care is not sacrificed," Clinton said.


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