It was the Anne, Bob, Frank and Phil show, as government and hospital spin doctors pulled out all the stops to celebrate the settlement of the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Morton Plant Health System in Clearwater, Fla., and Mease Health Care in Dunedin, Fla.
Never before has the resolution of a hospital antitrust case been greeted with such fanfare. On June 16, the hospital systems and the government sent out press advisories announcing a press briefing the following day at 11 a.m., eastern time, to reveal the "trend-setting" settlement that "provides lower healthcare prices and preserves competition." Reporters were told that camera and microphone set up could begin an hour before the press conference.
Mugging for the cameras were Anne Bingaman, assistant U.S. attorney general for antitrust; Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.); Frank Murphy, chief executive officer of Morton Plant; and Philip Beauchamp, CEO of Mease.
Reporters who couldn't attend the press conference were notified by the systems' outside public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, that Mr. Murphy and Mr. Beauchamp would be available for one-on-one interviews starting at 2 p.m., eastern time. Calls would be limited to 10 minutes, please.
Wheels of (AMA) justice.Amid all the talk of healthcare reform at the recent Chicago meeting of the American Medical Association's 430-member House of Delegates, the AMA's board of trustees felt it necessary to issue a report on the procedures for internally reporting unethical conduct by AMA members during their attendance at national association meetings. Unethical conduct may include charges of sexual harassment or violations of AMA election rules.
"While rare, allegations of ethical misconduct by members at AMA meetings are serious, and must be addressed decisively," the report said.
Complaints go first to local medical societies, then to the AMA's council on ethical and judicial affairs, then to a jury appointed by the AMA president, then to the AMA president and then to a prosecutor appointed by the AMA president.
Not so FAST.Executives of Beverly Enterprises and the Food and Allied Service Trades union have been trading blows since the nursing home chain's shareholders in May voted down a union-backed proposal calling for Beverly to make public all patient-care lawsuits filed against the company.
Now it appears FAST organizers weren't pleased with the manner in which Beverly announced the results of the shareholder vote. According to union officials, FAST's proposal received 3,557,143 votes, while 10,346,330 votes went against it. The union also contends Beverly counted 37 million additional votes against the proposal from discretionary proxies it gathered from an earlier mailing, when shareholders were unaware of the union proposal.
FAST President Robert Harbrant said Beverly management was "embarrassed by the low number of votes cast, which can be the only reason they failed to tell the shareholders and the press the actual numbers." Beverly officials said they couldn't include the union's proposal in the first proxy mailing because they didn't receive it on time.
Officials at the nation's largest nursing home chain have long accused union organizers of using patient-care issues to drum up support for their unionizing activities at Beverly's nursing homes.
FAST officials also claim that the Fort Smith, Ark.-based company failed to disclose that a company shareholder was arrested during its annual meeting after she attempted to distribute a handout containing "graphic photographs documenting allegations her father is receiving substandard care (at a Beverly nursing facility in Illinois)."
Trash talking?Is it just a coincidence that the Health Insurance Association of America broke its new television ad last week featuring Harry, of "Harry and Louise" fame, playing basketball with his younger brother Pat the same week that the National Basketball Association crowned its champion? Probably.
But you basketball fans won't mistake the dialogue in the ad with the trash talking that goes on in the NBA. In the ad, Louise rides up on a bike and is told by Harry that, "Pat was just telling me his state has community rating!"
Even HIAA President Willis Gradison had to laugh about that one when the ad was screened for reporters.
To pay or not to pay.Former National Medical Enterprises executives who get in hot water with the federal government over their activities at the company's troubled psychiatric hospitals may get their legal costs paid by the company.
Or, they may not.
When former NME regional executive Peter Alexis was charged with paying kickbacks and filing false Medicare reports this month, Outliers asked NME if the company was paying his legal costs.
Spokeswoman Diana Takvam said the Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm would pay legal costs when "the company is contractually obligated." However, she would not say whether Mr. Alexis meets that criterion. She said the company would not disclose whether it's paying the legal expenses for former NME executives because such information is part of attorney-client confidentiality.
However, she did say that if NME paid the legal expenses, and if the former executive was consequently found guilty, the company could recoup its money from that individual.
A new link.Human rights isn't just a concern in Third World countries, and it isn't just politics. That's why the only academic institution to focus exclusively on health and human rights is sponsoring a three-day course on the topic Aug. 22-25.
According to the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University's School of Public Health, "Evidence suggests that preventable illness, disability and premature death may be caused as much by societal discrimination and violations of human rights and dignity as by viruses or parasites. Understanding the human rights dimension is essential for public health work in the modern world."
Course titles include "AIDS, Health and Human Rights"; "Practical Issues in Incorporating Human Rights into Health Practice"; and "Rights Violations in Peacetime: Women's Rights and Women's Health."
The $595 course, to be held in Cambridge, Mass., will be directed by Jonathan Mann, M.D., director of the center and the founding director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS. Said Dr. Mann, "The progressive realization of health and of human rights is central to individual, community and global well-being."
For information on the course, call 617-432-1171. Continuing medical education credits are available.