July 1996 Bulletin

Media focuses on impact of 'gag' clauses

The impact of "gag" clauses on patients' treatments was the subject of major television and newspaper exposure in May, due to the efforts of the Patient Access to Specialty Care Coalition.

The coalition alerted the media to the testimony that would be presented at the hearings on Contract Issues and Quality Standards for Managed Care held May 30 by the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment of the House Commerce Committee.

David Ching, whose 34-year old wife died from colon cancer, appeared on the "CBS This Morning" TV program. Ching told how he and his wife were rebuffed when they asked their managed care physician for a referral to a specialist. It took 11 weeks and what Ching described as a humiliating confrontation with the managed care doctor before his wife could see a specialist. His wife was immediately diagnosed as having cancer. She died 15 months later. Ching's story also was reported on the "CNN Today" TV show.

Heather Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis, told interviewers on the NBC-TV "The Today Show" and on the CNBC program, "Steals and Deals," that she had to make 17 telephone calls to get approval to see a specialist. Similar interviews with Ching and Fraser were on other NBC and CNN shows.

Stories on the hearing were published in the Los Angeles Times, Des Moines Register, Kansas City Star and other newspapers.

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