Alliance for Patient Safety

                            All that is necessary for the triumph of evil...
                                                                ... is for good men to do nothing.

                                                                                                   Edmund Burke

Retaliation Against Physicians - Linda Peeno, MD

Dr. Linda Peeno, who quit her job as the medical director of an HMO to become a whistleblower and expert witness for patients, said that she is on the "hit list" of a managed-care industry that regards her with "sheer hate."

Her first threatening phone call came after she appeared on Dateline NBC, in a piece about a boy in Atlanta with meningitis who was directed by a Kaiser nurse to an emergency room forty-two miles from his home when he needed immediate care. He became severely ill and later had to have his hands and feet amputated. The family was able to sue because the boy's mother was a federal employee. A jury came back with a $45 million verdict.

"After it aired, I got this call from a gravelly voice, 'You better stop doing this stuff,'" Peeno recalled.

In March of 1998, after she published a testimonial in US News & World Report about the real decision-making processes of HMOs, she got another call: "It was a male, very nice, professional-sounding voice: 'I am calling to tell you that if you make any more media appearances or testify in any more legal cases, harm will come to you.'"

But it was not until an anonymous woman called her husband on his private line, an hour before his office opened, and warned of harm "to her or someone in your family," that she got scared.

The Peenos put in a security system and worked with the local police. But the calls kept coming, often catching her in places where she thought no one would know the number. Peeno, who describes managed care as "an industry bigger than tobacco," says, "What they can't deal with is that I've read more contracts and policies and procedures, and have become one of the most knowledgeable people in the country."

But it is not just her own hard-earned knowledge that chills managed-care executives. It is the fact that moles inside their companies who "hate what they do" feed her information, she said. These sources are crucial to fighting managed care in court. "[HMOs] use and misuse the law," said Peeno. "You can't get documents. They tie up the process by either fighting you tooth and nail or they shower you with useless paper. Sometimes, you can't even get the policy and procedure manual." Peeno noted that many of the job descriptions for claims reviewers at HMOs say, "Must be able to endure extreme stress."