Playing The HMO Game

Denied Viagra and inflamed by horror stories, consumers put health reform back on the front burner

Who would have guessed that a little baby-blue tablet designed to restore potency to the impotent would pack such a wallop? In June, Kaiser Permanente, the giant HMO with the imperial name, announced that it had decided not to cover the cost of the $10 erection pill for its 9 million members. Just three weeks later, the little pill had become a symbol of one of the nation's hottest political issues: what HMOs do and don't pay for. Viagra's role in the debate was heightened last week when the federal agency that administers Medicaid told the states that they were required...

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