Healthcare reform or bust. That's what busloads of healthcare reform advocates will have in mind when they journey to the nation's capital this summer from all over the country.
Dubbed the "Health Care Reform Express," the caravan will literally drive home the view that all Americans should be entitled to the same employer-sponsored healthcare that members of Congress enjoy.
The effort, launched by Families USA, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the National Association for Home Care, will get rolling July 22, from Portland, Ore. There, the first of many rallies for reform-some of which are expected to be attended by President Clinton, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Albert Gore and wife Tipper-will take place.
Other buses will depart from different parts of the country, for rallies in Boston, Tennessee and elsewhere. The largest rally will be held in Independence, Mo., July 30.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said organizations have raised $1.25 million for buses and lodging for passengers. A host of other groups will donate food and provide space for rallies. Some have rented buses of their own, he said.
The event is timed to coincide with the crucial weeks when members of Congress are expected to debate healthcare reform legislation on the floors of the House and Senate.
"We have to get people back to understanding what healthcare reform is designed to achieve and why it's so crucial for working families," Mr. Pollack said.
Brewing a bill.There is an old story about acting Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.) that when he parachuted into France on D-Day, instead of packing cigarettes, candy or food as most of the men did, Mr. Gibbons took two cans of Schlitz beer.
Remembering that story, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, just moments after the Ways and Means Committee finished work on its healthcare reform plan, sent Mr. Gibbons a case of his beloved Schlitz.
When asked if passing healthcare reform was more difficult than parachuting into France, Mr. Gibbons answered, "well, it certainly took longer."
Beyond the Beltway.While all the media focus in on the chaotic reform effort in Washington, the healthcare landscape is being changed by state governments. Ernst & Young, the accounting and consulting firm, has prepared a detailed analysis of nine state reform initiatives called State Health Care Reform: Not Waiting for Washington.
The 30-page report focuses on the structure, access, cost-containment and financing elements of the plans and looks at the role of managed care in the evolving health system. It depicts a "reform continuum," from competition (Florida) to maximum regulation (Vermont). It gives healthcare data for each state, and in general is a handy thumbnail sketch of reform in the states.
It has been mailed to Ernst & Young clients, but is available for a $10 fee to the general public. For a copy, call 216-861-8810.
No conflicts, but I'm gone.Illinois Lt. Gov. Robert Kustra denied that any potential conflicts of interest related to his wife's new healthcare job were behind his decision to quit his job for a spot on talk radio.
Mr. Kustra said last month he would step aside as Republican Gov. Jim Edgar's running mate to host a drive-time show on a popular Chicago radio station. Questions were raised about Mr. Kustra's wife, who was recently hired by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. as vice president of network development for Chicago. But he said it had nothing to do with Kathleen Kustra's new job, which he denied was any conflict of interest.
Ms. Kustra was hired in May to anticipate legislative mandates and help Columbia expand its presence in Chicago (May 16, p. 48). For-profit giant Columbia/HCA already owns six hospitals in the Chicago area but has said it wants a dozen.
In his effort to earn a second four-year term, Mr. Edgar faces a tough re-election battle this fall with Democratic nominee Dawn Clark Netsch.
Renamed.Wayne M. Lerner, president of the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, introduced John P. McGuire, his chief financial officer, as the new chairman of the Healthcare Financial Management Association at the HFMA chairman's banquet in Washington. In his introduction, Mr. Lerner noted the size and scope of the hospital's parent company, BJC Health System (which includes the former Barnes Jewish Christian and Baptist hospitals). With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Mr. Lerner said the BJC system has decided to change its name to the Chosen People's Network.
Bashing the FDA.Some 83% of 58 medical electronics companies surveyed for the American Electronics Association said they had experienced "excessive delays" in the Food and Drug Administration's approval process for new products. What else, Outliers asks, would be said by an industry vigorously lobbying for a simpler review process to help them make money sooner?
The AEA survey follows hard on the debut of "FDA Horror Stories," a new column in the monthly Biomedical Market Newsletter that features manufacturers' complaints about the FDA. The device industry argues that the FDA's slow approval process is keeping good products off the market and causing medical device makers to move jobs overseas (Feb. 1, 1993, p. 35.) Both parties are trying to move through Congress legislation that would authorize user fees to hire more FDA reviewers. How come no one brings up the horror stories that triggered stricter review of devices in the first place?
Dirty business."Recognition of the importance of hand-washing is a major challenge in the healthcare scene today."
OK, it's not as big as managed competition, but that's the important message contained in a new 33-page booklet dedicated to the subject by the Arlington, Texas-based Johnson & Johnson medical division. Directed at nurses and other healthcare workers, the book reports that one study showed that 90% of women washed their hands after using the bathroom if another woman was present. If they thought they were alone, only 16% washed.