The High Price of Health
Press Reaction

From USA Today By Robert Blanco

"If you're not sick now, you may be by the time FRONTLINE is done with you."

"...As is so often the case with this laudable series, FRONTLINE takes a potentially dry and baffling subject and makes it seem both compelling and comprehensible. Rather than drown us in statistics, the hour pulls us in with painful personal examples--though to be honest, a few statistics would have bolstered the largely anecdotal evidence. It may be reasonable to assume most health maintenance organization (HMO) participants are unhappy, but it's an assumption we shouldn't have to make.

Though clearly weighted against for-profit HMOs, Health is not a one-sided attack. Before managed care, we're told, hospitals and doctors grew rich on lavish facilities, unnecessary operations and useless tests--making decisions that had much to do with wealth as health. HMOs have clearly forced the medical establishment to cut costs. The questions is, at what cost?"

From New York Daily News By Eric Mink

"The High Price of Health underscores how far out of whack America's health-care system has been thrown by the wholesale shift to managed care and HMOs."

"...Don't get the wrong idea: This is not a wholly one-sided report, although those with financial ties to managed care companies will think so.

The one-hour program, produced by Rachel Dretzin, acknowledges that health-care costs had been escalating out of control before managed care caught fire. Clearly, there was something wrong with the traditional fee-for-service system, in which doctors and hospitals, free from financial accountability, had every incentive to do more than they needed to.

But tonight's report soberly demonstrates, the pendulum may have swung too far in the other direction. In overly zealous managed-care systems, financial concerns are replacing medical judgments. The goal now is to get away with providing as little care as possible in the hope that patients are resilient enough to survive anyway.

The bottom line: Don't get sick."

From The Atlanta Constitution By Phil Kloer

"The High Price of Health makes no bones that it is against our rapidly evolving system of managed care by for-profit organizations such as HMOs. A long parade of doctors and nurses condemn, sometimes very effectively, the effect that managed care is having on medicine."

"...Just so long as viewers know they're watching a documentary that's trying to make them think in a certain way.

Some FRONTLINEs take an objective point of view, while others try to make a point by presenting one side strenuously. One approach isn't necessarily better than the other, as long as viewers use their brains and know what's being given to them. Grade B."

From New York Times By Walter Goodman

"FRONTLINE pays a house call on American medical care tonight. Under examination is whether the for-profit health maintenance organizations that are spreading throughout the nation are benign.

The findings of The High Price of Health are not reassuring. HMO members are discovering that some treatments, particularly expensive ones, are not covered by their plans. They are also discovering that hospital stays are getting shorter; patients are sent home before they feel ready to go."

"...It's an instructive hour, with sharp glimpses into the changing world of American medicine and its discontents. The diagnosis is uncertain, and second opinions will surely be forthcoming."

From The Washington Post By Sandra G. Boodman

".....The segment involving Beverly Hospital, which is struggling to stay open by using more unlicensed personnel instead of registered nurses, is less compelling. While the nurses complain that they are overworked and that patient care is suffering, there is no good evidence this is happening. And the implication that towns like Beverly should have a community hospital is dubious. "

"...Hasan, the founder and chief executive officer of Foundation Health Systems, Inc., one of the nation's largest and fastest-growing health maintenance organizations (HMOs), provides a fascinating, if chilling , portrait of for-profit medicine."

"Fortunately, Dretzin doesn't bemoan the good old pre-managed-care days, as many physicians are wont to do, when doctors could do pretty much what they wished. She notes that in the old days--of say 1988--there were no incentives to practice good medicine in a cost-effective manner. "

From The Sacramento Bee By Kevin McDonough

"FRONTLINE does the impossible with a one-hour documentary...that actually makes the subject of health care, HMOs and the insurance industry comprehensible, interesting, even emotionally compelling.

By allowing doctors, nurses and insurance executives to discuss the crisis in their own words, The High Price of Health presents a sobering and largely balanced look at the radical changes in medical care."


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