Junkfood Science: Update

February 13, 2008


The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Blue Cross of California has said it will cease sending those letters to doctors asking them to investigate and report undisclosed conditions to the insurance company. WLS says the company responded after being slammed when the Los Angeles Times exposed the practice yesterday and the negative responses from professionals and the public were so “livid.”

The San Francisco Chronicle, however, reports that the California Medical Association had contacted the state Department of Managed Care (which regulates health maintenance organizations and had already fined Blue Cross $1.2 million for improperly canceling coverage). The CMA had asked regulators to order Blue Cross to stop sending the letters. A spokesperson for the Dept. of Managed Care was reported as saying lawyers are investigating whether the Blue Cross letters violate any laws, including patient privacy concerns. “If they're asking the doctor to do their medical underwriting ... that could be a cause for concern,” she said.

Blue Cross, in its public statement issued last night announcing it was discontinuing the letters, said it “highly values the trust of its members and understands the personal relationship members have with their physicians and medical groups.” It is similar to the public statement made by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday who said: “To break that [patient-physician] confidentiality relationship is terrible.” Neither acknowledged that the medical home concept and universal healthcare plans and the electronic medical record initiatives they support would give the insurers and government full access to that confidential personal health information without patients’ consent.

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