Quality Gap
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Chronically Ill
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Idealisitic HMO
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  •  Interviews


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CRITICAL CONDITION with Hedrick takes a penetrating, grass roots look at the quality, affordability and availability of health care for ordinary Americans, the chronically ill, the uninsured, children and seniors in Medicare HMOs. From Florida to California, New England to Texas, New York to Utah, CRITICAL CONDITION with Hedrick Smith offers compelling personal stories of the kinds of treatment patients have received — or were denied, how and where they might have been treated better, and what lessons can be learned from their experiences.

Consulting with more than 100 medical experts across the nation and exploring some of the nation's most prominent medical institutions, health plans and insurers, Smith and his producers provide a "flesh-and-blood" report card on the health issues that have fueled public dissatisfaction with a health care system that some say is in need of intensive care.

The broadcast special is divided into segments on four subject areas:

  • The Quality Gap: Medicine's Secret Killer — Most Americans assume that our trillion-dollar health care system is the best in the world and patients can assume quality care. But experts say up to 98,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. This segment tells the astonishing story of a VA hospital that openly admitted killing a patient with a botched prescription. It also examines the alarming gap between best practice and the care most patients receive, focusing on one of the 400,000 open heart surgeries done every year and comparing varying mortality rates from coronary bypasses. In addition, the segment presents the debate among doctors over whether the public should be informed about performance data. Other portions report on unusual efforts by hospitals in New England, Utah and New York to reduce medical errors and improve quality.

  • The Chronically Ill: Pain, Profit and Managed Care — How well can people with chronic ailments count on getting quality, long-term care in a cost-conscious health care system — especially one that is geared more towards acute care? This report profiles middle-aged and senior patients with cancer, heart disease and strokes as well as children with congenital illnesses. It examines whether these patients get access to the best quality health providers, and it compares how commercial HMOs supported them with findings by experts on what is the most effective health care.

  • The Idealistic HMO: Can Good Care Survive the Market? — Our system of managed care promised to coordinate preventive and long-term care more effectively than the old, fragmented, fee-for-service system. But does it work? And what are its limits? This segment examines Kaiser Permanente, a non-profit group practice with a social mission of lifetime care launched half a century ago. While it has pioneered certain improvements — such as mass screening for colon cancer and special team care for HIV patients and diabetics, this HMO has also come under fire for cost-cutting and neglecting communities in need.

  • The Uninsured: 44 Million Forgotten Americans — Despite a booming economy, 44 million Americans have no health insurance and the number mounts by one million each year. Some 85 percent are working or in the family of a worker, but most of their employers no longer provide coverage. When these Americans are suddenly disabled or fall seriously ill, they're forced to rely on charity care which is shrinking in today's cost conscious health market. This segment profiles a Texas oil worker hit by a heart attack while changing jobs. It looks at how adults fare under Tennessee's effort to provide a safety net and how children in Los Angeles are doing under CHIP - the new Child Health Insurance Program.

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1 2 3
The Quality Gap:
Medicine's Secret Killer
The Chronically Ill:
Pain Profit and Managed Care
The Idealistic HMO:
Can good Care Survive the Market
Quality Gap Chronically Ill Idealistic Summary
4 5 6
The Uninsured:
44 Million Forgotten Americans
Frontline: Dr. Soloman's Dilemma
Visit to the web site for this Frontline segment on doctors assuming financial risk, produced by Hedrick Smith Productions as part of the Critical Condition series on health care.
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