“Only by returning to first principles will we be able to raise ourselves out of this bickering over who pays how much for what.”

“Only by returning to first principles will we be able to raise ourselves out of this bickering over who pays how much for what.”

On July 1, 2000, the newly created California Department of Managed Health Care began operation, assuming from the Department of Corporations the job of regulating HMOs and protecting consumers. Governor Davis gave the reins of the new agency to an old friend and ally, Daniel Zingale, who had been deputy controller and chief of staff during Gray Davis’s tenure as state controller.

A Sacramento native, Mr. Zingale most recently served as executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based AIDS Action Council, a lobbying group. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard, Mr. Zingale has also worked as public policy director of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights lobbying organization. He has also served as managing director of government relations of the American Psychological Association. California Healthline’s Jeff Stryker talked to Daniel Zingale about his first month on the job.

Healthline: How many patients are covered in the plans you regulate?

Zingale: There are more than 20 million Californians enrolled in managed care in one form or another.

Healthline: A poll recently showed that fewer than ten percent of Californians know which state agency regulates HMOs.

Zingale: I saw that survey and welcomed it. It will fuel our campaign to raise the awareness of consumers’ rights and responsibilities and the role this new department plays in improving the situation for managed care.

Healthline: In overseeing managed care, is it possible to attend to both the health of the managed care industry and the interests of consumers?

Zingale: The department was created by more than 20 pieces of legislation with many specifics about how we must proceed. I believe it all comes down to two fundamental roles. The first is to improve the managed health care system for consumers for a healthier California. Alongside that is to help insure the financial stability of the managed health care system. I believe these two goals can be complementary.

Healthline: Why don’t we start with the second part, the solvency and viability of the plans themselves. There seems to be a lot of turmoil in the field. The latest is United HealthCare’s decision to foist off a quarter million patients on Blue Cross. There is also, especially in California (even if your regulatory arm doesn’t reach this far) concern about the solvency of physician groups.

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