Posts Tagged ‘American Medical Association’

Kaiser Permanente as a National Model for Care

posted on July 22, 2015

Lincoln Cushing
Heritage writer

 

Third in a series on Kaiser Permanente’s 70th anniversary

Microsoft Word - National Health Care Proposal 1945

Cover, “Proposal for a Nation-Wide Pre-Paid Medical Plan Based on Experience of the Permanente Foundation Hospitals,” March 3, 1945

At the end of World War II the huge challenge of civilian social services was being reviewed at the highest levels of government. When Harry S. Truman took office in 1945, following the death of President Roosevelt, he did so as a supporter of national health insurance. President Truman made this plea in a speech to Congress on May 19, 1945:

Healthy citizens constitute our greatest national resource. In time of peace, as in time of war, our ultimate strength stems from the vigor of our people. The welfare and security of our nation demand that the opportunity for good health be made available to all, regardless of residence, race or economic status.

At no time can we afford to lose the productive energies and capacities of millions of our citizens. Nor can we permit our children to grow up without a fair chance of survival and a fair chance for a healthy life. We must not permit our rural families to suffer for lack of physicians, dentists, nurses and hospitals. We must not reserve a chance for good health and a long productive life to the well-to-do alone. A great and free nation should bring good health care within the reach of all its people.

Such sentiments were not only echoed by Henry J. Kaiser, he believed that he could contribute to the dialogue. The World War II Permanente Health Plan was so efficient and effective that Kaiser proposed it as a model for national health care. His “Proposal for a Nation-Wide Pre-Paid Medical Plan Based on Experience of the Permanente Foundation Hospitals” dated March 3, 1945, began with this bold statement:

It is maintained that the greatest service that can be done for the American people is to provide a nation-wide prepaid health plan that will guard these people against the tragedy of unpredictable and disastrous hospital and medical bills, and that will, in consequence, emphasize preventive instead of curative medicine, thereby improving the state of the nation’s health.

"Health Insurance Fact Sheet," 4/28/1947; courtesy Truman Presidential Library

“Health Insurance Fact Sheet” outlining national problems 4/28/1947; courtesy Truman Presidential Library

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on July 20, 1945 that a Senate subcommittee was considering Kaiser’s plan for a volunteer health insurance system to be created through government financing, permitting establishment of voluntary systems for national prepaid medical care through facilities of the Federal Housing Agency. Legislation legalizing the plan was prepared by Kaiser for introduction in Congress by Senator Claude Pepper (D., Fla.).

The bill was an outgrowth of Kaiser’s experience in providing group health insurance to 125,000 employees monthly through the Kaiser Permanente Foundation. Sen. Pepper’s legislation and support for what would become the National Health Insurance Act of 1949 (Senate Bill 1679) was strongly supported by President Truman.

However, Truman’s proposal was immediately attacked by conservative groups, including the American Medical Association. The JAMA editorial on May 7, 1949 put forward their position:

Obviously the propaganda agencies that are devoted to the cause of compulsory sickness insurance provided the thought, if not the language, for President Truman’s address. Here are many of the same old misrepresentations that have characterized their previous statements on this subject. Lacking only is reference to the “socialization of medicine;” apparently the proponents of nationalized political medical care have learned that the American people are exceedingly distrustful of socialism. No doubt the most important objection to medicine socialized by nationalization of its control is the well-established fact that the taking over of medicine is but the first step toward nationalization of every interest and activity of the nation.

Truman’s plan failed to win enough support to pass, and Kaiser withdrew from the national health debate. It would not, however, be the last time that Kaiser Permanente would be part of the national dialogue around best practices in health care.

 

Short link to this article: http://k-p.li/1TQqHC5 

 

 

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Twentieth century stigma retards treatment for addiction

posted on August 27, 2012

By Laura Thomas
Heritage correspondent

First in a series
Despite Kaiser Permanente’s early emphasis on preventive health care, pervasive 20th century American attitudes about alcohol and drug abuse curbed Health Plan leaders’ willingness to tackle addiction as a bona fide treatable illness.

“Very few physicians or even psychiatrists are willing to treat the chronic alcoholic, just as few lawyers go into the specialty of bankruptcy law,”
Paul Gliebe, MD, of the University of California medical school, told Kaiser Permanente physicians in 1953. “The chronic alcoholic is in most instances looked upon as a bankrupt personality.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) was also reluctant to empathize with alcoholics, stopping short of declaring alcoholism a disease in 1956, while encouraging hospitals to admit patients suffering from the symptoms.1

“Since the earliest era, (Kaiser) Permanente (KP) physicians had resisted the idea of comprehensive care for alcoholism, self-inflicted wounds, or other self-induced illness,” the late KP San Francisco pediatrician John Smillie, MD, wrote in his 1991 book, Can Physicians Manage the Quality and Costs of Health Care?

This resistance existed despite some early voices in Kaiser Permanente who pointed out what the Permanente organization accepts today – that social and behavioral imbalances lead to disease and the symptoms include addiction and depression, now being recognized as diseases in themselves.

KP psychiatrist Kahn warns addicts need early care

One early KP psychiatrist, Bernard Kahn, MD, sounded an alarm at a Permanente Medical Group planning meeting in Monterey in 1960. From that vantage point, Kahn described the modern, ever-present pressures of managing technology, work and leisure:

“Our national consumption of tranquilizers and alcohol prove we are a nervous nation. Let’s face it: the internist, the surgeon, the general practitioner, our Drop-In (Clinic) physicians are treating this kind of illness – the intangible, aggravating, emotional upsets, day in and day out – regardless of what the Health Plan contract reads.”

Kahn asserted that the Health Plan needed to extend its preventive care to include alcoholics because they would surely develop chronic disease without treatment for their addiction. “(In this area) we’re already too late, and we are covering end-stage disease (caused by alcoholism).”

Dr. Kahn, a retired Navy psychiatrist, was helping to craft a cost-effective and practical psychiatric program, along with The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG) pioneer Morris Collen, MD, in the 1950s. Collen was concerned that traditional psychiatric appointments were too long at 50 minutes and would add unduly to Health Plan costs. He wanted Kahn to develop a program based on a 30-minute appointment. Unfortunately, Kahn died of a heart attack before he could accomplish the task, Dr. Collen said in his 1986 oral history.

KP institutes psychiatry program in late 1950s

In the late 1950s, Kahn and psychologist Nicholas Cummings had been successful in establishing a KP psychiatry program. But treatment for alcoholism and other addictions was kept at arm’s length until it was pushed by the federal government for its employees in 1969, physician leader Raymond Kay, MD, wrote in his 1979 book on the history of the KP Southern California medical group.2

The AMA also took its time to define alcoholism as a disease. It waited until 1967 to declare it a “disease that merits the serious concern of all members of the health professions.” By then, President Lyndon Johnson had publicly called for more study and treatment for alcoholism, and health insurance plans had begun to respond.1

Richard Merrick, MD, then a young internist at KP’s Harbor City Medical Center in Southern California, said he was approached by the department chief in early 1971. “They needed at least one physician from each area to start an alcoholism program.

“There were 12 or 15 doctors in the department at the time and he came to me last because he had been turned down by everyone. There was zero interest at that time in having anything to do with ‘those people’. That was the common mentality at the time.”

Saying ‘no’ to alcohol excess

There was little understanding of the functional alcoholic or socialite imbibing wine, he said, only of the “stinking drunk. There was hardly any concept of addictions being diseases. They were defects of character. It was a matter of choice. These people were ‘bad’ so how could you treat that?” he said.

Dr. Merrick hired a recovering alcoholic to help him organize a one-night-a-week outpatient clinic, which lasted for three-and-a-half years. But if a patient was going through withdrawal symptoms, he or she could not be admitted easily.

“They had to have a seizure to get admitted. That’s how crazy it was for a while,” he remembered. “Once in a while I would sneak somebody in, and I would take all kinds of heat from the Health Plan because they would tell me it wasn’t a covered benefit.”

But industry and the government were determined to extend addiction treatment to as many American workers and their families as possible. Recognizing the need, KP regions began instituting coverage in the late 1970s, usually offering outpatient treatment services through the psychiatry department with a copayment and yearly cap on the number of counseling appointments or group meetings a member could use.

By the early 1980s, alcoholics were no longer falling “through the cracks at Kaiser (Permanente),” according to Andrus Skuja, MD, then chief of the alcohol and drug abuse program in South San Francisco. His comments in an interview in the KP Reporter employee newsletter in December 1982 reflected Merrick’s early experience in Southern California:

The U.S. Post Office issued this commemorative stamp in 1981. Illustration: Catwalk/Shutterstock.

During the 1980s as the nation recognized cocaine as a new addiction problem, KP saw the need to treat many other drug addictions. It was a little tough at first. Many alcohol counselors were not comfortable with “heroin addicts or pill users, and they didn’t seem to realize that the dynamics were all the same. Addiction is addiction,” Merrick recalled. “In the San Fernando Valley, one clinic treated alcoholics and another treated addicts other than alcoholics . . . that lasted for a while.”

Kaiser Permanente resisted the initial trend of sending people to 30-day inpatient treatment programs even though many large employers and well-off unions, such as the longshoremen, were pushing it.  KP established inpatient detoxification programs at KP Fontana for Kaiser Steel Mill employees in 1978 and in Carson just south of Los Angeles in 1988.

Thirty days was the gold standard based on the Minnesota model of alcoholism treatment that health insurers recognized and were willing to pay for. It got a large push when Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford, spoke of her alcoholism in 1978 and later lent her name to the Betty Ford Center for alcoholics and drug addicts.1

Merrick, who was never convinced of the need for the month-long inpatient stay, noted: “We never kept them in for 30 days . . . As it has shaken out, I was right.

“It was just common sense. If you are a functioning alcoholic and not going through detox, why on earth do you need to be in for 30 days when you can do equivalent work on an outpatient basis over a longer period of time, because treatment for alcoholism or any drug is a lifelong thing . . . There is nothing magical about the 30 days.”

This inpatient treatment model died off everywhere in the early 1990s and was replaced by less expensive residential treatment as an alternative for patients with special needs.

Next time: 1990s spawn research and refinement of addiction care

1 Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America, William L. White, Chestnut Health Systems/Lighthouse Institute, 1998

2 Historical Review of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, Raymond M. Kay, MD, 1978, publisher: the Southern California Permanente Medical Group.

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