THIS just in, from the editorial page of the Cumberland Times-News:
"Should you be able to see the doctor of your choice? Because they are enrolled in Health Maintenance Organizations, many Marylanders cannot unless they pay for health care out of their own pocket. All of that would change under legislation pending before the General Assembly.
"The legislation is called the Patient Access Bill. If enacted, it would allow HMO patients to see doctors of their choice. If the doctor agrees to accept the rates paid by the HMO, then the patient would pay 20 percent of the doctor bills and the HMO would pay the other 80 percent.
"Everyone realizes that health care costs have skyrocketed and innovative programs such as creation of HMOs are needed to keep medical bills as low as possible. But many patients deplore not being able to see a doctor of choice and in some instances they have had to switch from their longtime personal physician to one who is approved by the patient's HMO.
"The challenge is to open up more access to doctors while at the same time not running HMOs -- who have helped keep medical costs down -- out of business. HMOs do not like the idea because they view it as a threat to the closed HMO system. But they should acknowledge the widespread dissatisfaction over limited access to doctors and realize that if HMOs are to have a secure future a compromise must be reached.
"A 1993 Gallup poll showed that 88 percent of all Americans say the right to choose their doctor is their number one concern in health care reform.
"By opening access, Maryland may have found a way to reduce the number of unhappy medical care consumers."