Hospital prices rose a meager 0.1% in April, matching the price increase of the same period a year ago, according to the U.S. Labor Department's monthly producer price index. Over the 12-month period ending in April, hospital prices have risen 3.2%. The PPI measures changes in prices for single episodes of care. Prices for physician services, meanwhile, also rose 0.1% in April, compared with a 0.2% increase in March. Year-ago figures for physician charges aren't available.
Managed-care networks produce much greater savings than they've been given credit for, according to a report released last week by Lewin-VHI, a Fairfax, Va.-based consulting firm. The study, commissioned by the Healthcare Leadership Council, found that healthcare costs in Aetna's independent practice associations-networks of physicians that supply services for capitated health plans-were 23% lower in 1992 than in traditional fee-for-service plans. PPOs were 11% less costly, while point-of-service plans were 13% cheaper. The Congressional Budget Office, which has the final word on determining costs and savings for all healthcare reform bills, has refused to attribute substantial savings to managed care.
Lee Memorial Hospital last week filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission that seeks to prohibit it from acquiring Cape Coral Hospital. Both hospitals are in the Fort Myers, Fla., area (May 9, p. 16). The FTC contends the acquisition is anti-competitive and will increase consumers' costs. At press time, a federal judge in Tampa hadn't ruled on Lee Memorial's request or the FTC's earlier request for an injunction barring the acquisition. Meanwhile, the FTC has scheduled a July 13 hearing before an administrative law judge in Washington to hear its complaint. On April 28, U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the hospitals from merging.
A gunman critically wounded his estranged wife last week in a Louisville, Ky., hospital and was later shot to death at a nearby hotel, where he fled and was confronted by police, a spokesman said. Elaine Lismon-Brown, a scrub nurse at 573-bed Norton Hospital of Alliant Health System, was in critical condition. She was shot at several times as she ran down a hospital corridor trying to escape her husband, Curtis Lamont Brown, police said.
Nearly 65% of physicians who treat Medicare patients are formally "participating" in the program this year, up from 60% in 1993, HHS said. Participating physicians are those who have agreed to accept Medicare-approved fees as payment in full, as opposed to charging patients more than that amount. To spur physicians into the program, participating physicians' Medicare fees are 5% higher. Non-participating physicians can't charge Medicare beneficiaries more than 115% of the Medicare rate.
A Community Psychiatric Centers shareholder is trying to force the company to rescind its "poison pill" shareholder rights plan, established in 1989 to prevent an unwanted takeover of the company. The shareholder making the proposal is Amalgamated Bank of New York, which owns about 2,000 shares, CPC said. Amalgamated contends the poison pill plan could be used to entrench current management and that the company's performance has been "unsatisfactory." The Laguna, Hills, Calif.-based company denies the charges, noting a 74% increase in CPC's stock price since the end of fiscal 1992. CPC's shareholders meeting is scheduled for this week in Laguna Hills. CPC operates 58 psychiatric and long-term critical-care hospitals in the United States, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.
Howard Shaver, longtime president of the New Mexico Hospitals and Health Systems Association, has resigned to focus on a private business venture and pursue healthcare advocacy efforts. Mr. Shaver, 48, had been with the Albuquerque-based state hospital group since 1976 and had been president since 1979. The association is conducting a search for his replacement.