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Leading African American Groups Call On Health Insurers to Dismiss Restrictive Practices
Date:8/13/2009

BALTIMORE, Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- To protect the health of African Americans in Maryland, the Black Nurses Association of Baltimore and the Greater Baltimore Urban League have joined together to support a National Health Insurer Code of Conduct from the American Medical Association.

In Maryland, a large portion of the state's racial and ethnic minorities, including African Americans, face significant barriers to health care, including obtaining coverage for treatments and medications prescribed by their providers. More Maryland doctors are finding their ability to care for their patients negatively impacted by third parties. Combined with the cost of treatment, these health disparities can make it extremely difficult for patients to manage their disease and maintain a quality of life.

"In Maryland, African Americans with chronic diseases have problems gaining access to the right treatments for their conditions," Patricia Meadley, President of the Black Nurses Association of Baltimore, stated. "They're just not getting the care they need."

The American Medical Association's (AMA) Health Insurer Code of Conduct focuses on four areas: transparency, accountability, clinical autonomy and patient safety and welfare. This will help address health disparities by providing patients with clearer information and open communication about their health plan and place a responsibility on health insurers to act in the best interests of its patients. It also gives prescribing authority back to doctors to treat patients as they see fit instead of having treatment options dictated to them through insurance practices

The code of conduct limits health disparities by forcing health plans to be accountable and by allowing doctors to make clinical decisions that are in the best interests of their patients. While many managed care organizations maintain appropriate focus on quality measures, some managed care plans and pharmacy benefit managers employ aggressive tactics to cut costs, while sacrificing patient care in the process.

"We are committed to improving the lives of African Americans in the Baltimore community and across the state," J. Howard Henderson, President & CEO, Greater Baltimore Urban League, stated. "Health care is not for the privileged few; it is for everyone."

A code of conduct is not intended to unravel the practices of managed care, but instead to level the playing field so that physicians can act in the best interests of their patients, and without interference from outside influences such as monetary incentives or fears of punitive actions.

The AMA code will set forth clear and concise principles addressing both medical policies and payment issues, as well as create a mechanism to monitor compliance by managed care companies.

The February 2009 Issue Brief from the National Business Group on Health's Center for Prevention and Health Services indicated that members of racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive preventive health services than members of the majority population.

"Health care is needed for all--especially Maryland's black community," Meadley stated. " If you solve the health inequalities of the black population, all will benefit."

The Black Nurses Association and the Greater Baltimore Urban League encourage community members to sign the Alliance for Patient Access petition in support of the Code to guarantee and protect patient access to approved medical treatments. The petition can be accessed at www.insurepatientaccess.org.

About National Black Nurses Association

The National Black Nurses Association's mission is to provide a forum for collective action by black nurses to investigate, define and advocate for the health care needs of African Americans and to implement strategies that ensure access to health care, equal to, or above health care standards of the larger society.

About Greater Baltimore Urban League

Greater Baltimore Urban League was established in 1924 and is part of the nation's oldest and largest community- based movement devoted to empowering African Americans to enter the economic and social mainstream.


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SOURCE Greater Baltimore Urban League; National Black Nurses Association
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