How HMO Policies Kill `Useless Eaters''
From the Pamphlet: "Ban the HMOs!"


by Nancy Spannaus

Printed in the American Almanac, January, 2000.


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The way that cost-cutting policies of HMOs lead to death was dramatically demonstrated by the August 1981 death of Clarence Herbert, a patient being treated by one of the nation's oldest HMOs, Kaiser Permanente.

Herbert was a 55-year-old man who went in for bowel surgery at a Los Angeles hospital. When he went into a coma during recovery, his doctors, Robert Nejdl and Neil Barber, lied that he was brain-dead, although they had taken no tests to prove this, nor was there any indication of neurological damage. The doctors ordered his life support and nourishment to be disconnected, until he died of starvation and dehydration.

A nurse's testimony led to the Los Angeles County prosecutor attempting to bring murder charges against the doctors. While the case was not successful, what was discovered during the investigation and scandal, was the role of Kaiser's policies. Kaiser's policies dictated that the doctors were in danger of losing their year-end bonuses for cost-cutting if they had kept him alive!

Kaiser's policies have only gotten worse over the last decades. A suit brought against the HMO in 1999 turned up an internal 1995-97 business plan, which set fiscal goals of ``a drastic reduction in total costs, and overall drastic reduction on both inpatient and outpatient medical care by 1999'' by limiting access and rationing prescriptions for high-cost drugs; reducing surgical/primary care staff; cutting stays in intensive care units; ``prevent(ing) admissions'' of geriatric patients; ``shifting surgical cases (mastectomy, gallbladder, etc.) from inpatient to outpatient;'' replacing skilled, licensed medical service providers with low-paid, less specialized non-licensed workers.

This is Hitler's ``useless eater'' policy, pure and simple.


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The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The American Almanac


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