Political Activity Gets Mass. HMOs Into Hot Water

The Massachusetts secretary of state is waging war on the state's not-for-profit HMOs, which financed the bulk of a campaign to defeat a ballot proposal that would have required the legislature to create a universal-care system in the state. William Galvin blasted the plans for poormouthing and cutting benefits while spending millions to defeat the measure.

Galvin said he would advocate legislation allowing health plan enrollees to deduct money from their premium expenses if they disagreed with their insurers' political contributions.

Health plans accused Galvin of grandstanding and claimed that Question 5 would have forced them to raise premiums hundreds of dollars per member per year. The ballot proposal did not specify the nature of a universal-care system, leaving details to legislators.

Question 5 was defeated 52 to 48 percent. The state's health insurers spent about $4 million to defeat it, while supporters spent just $65,000 to promote its passage.