HIGHTOWER: Aetna Versus Joseph Plocica

Time for today's Hog Report!These big snorters are HMOs -- the corporations that now control America's medical system. That huge one there is Aetna U.S. Healthcare, which has been a leader in squeezing the "care" out of our health care system, pocketing prodigious profits by cutting back on the treatment it allows its doctors to provide for us patients.Aetna U.S. Healthcare also was a leader in the industry's successful effort in Congress to kill the Patient's Bill of Rights -- legislation that would have restored some power to us medical consumers when we confront the ruthless actions of HMO beancounters.Mr. Joseph Plocica could tell you about such HMO ruthlessness ... except that he's dead. He was released from a psychiatric ward in Fort Worth, even though he apparently was still severely depressed and medically unstable. After his release, Mr. Plocica drank a half-gallon of antifreeze and killed himself. His own psychiatrist had wanted him to stay in the hospital for another couple of weeks, but he was overruled by a doctor who had never even seen Mr. Plocica. This doctor worked in the bureaucratic system of Aetna U.S. Healthcare, Mr. Plocica's HMO. He decreed that the HMO would not pay for another night of hospitalization for this ill man, so Joseph Plocica was discharged into the dark night.Texas is (so far) the only state that allows patients and their families to sue HMOs for malpractice, and Mr. Plocica's family has done so. Ironically, Aetna U.S. Healthcare had gone to federal court to block the Texas law, but lost, so now it faces the nation's first malpractice case against an HMO. A company lawyer coldly gave the company line on Mr. Plocica's treatment, maintaining that HMOs don't decide whether a patient is dismissed from a hospital -- just whether that patient's stay is paid for.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Try explaining that distinction to Joseph Plocica.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.