Talk radio wielded a huge influence on the outcome of the healthcare reform debate in Congress last year, a survey of lawmakers and their staffers conducted by the Columbia Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health shows. Radio talk shows were far more influential than The New York Times editorial page or television. Among interest groups, the insurance industry was seen as having the greatest influence in the congressional debate (29%). Next came small business (22%), then providers, hospitals and physicians (11%). But public opinion was cited by most as the principal reason the plan failed. Kaiser Family Foundation funded the survey.
Alarmed by a possible increase in serious illness among infants, obstetricians are asking insurers to stop speeding the hospital releases of newborns and their mothers. While the average hospital stay for vaginal births fell from 3.9 days in 1970 to 2.1 days in 1992, a growing number of insurers and HMOs allow only a 24-hour stay after births without complications. The trend amounts to a "large, uncontrolled and uninformed experiment," said Michael Mennuti, M.D., of Philadelphia, policy committee chairman of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Providers in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota will pool their purchases of medical supplies to win better prices. The move, they say, will help them compete with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which is expanding in Nebraska. The new group, Lincoln, Neb.-based MidAmerica Health Net, represents 36 healthcare institutions and more than 900 physicians. They spend about $30 million annually on medical supplies. The group was formed last week by Nebraska Purchasing Group, which ceased to exist, and Immanuel Healthcare Systems, which runs a 332-bed hospital in Omaha, Neb., and two rural facilities. Immanuel is a shareholder in American Healthcare Systems. It says its access to AmHS contracts should help other Mid-America members cut spending.
St. Anthony's Medical Center, St. John's Mercy Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital plan to consolidate to create the St. Louis-area's second-largest hospital company. The merger will leave St. Louis with three giant not-for-profit hospital companies handling about two-thirds of the region's hospital patients. The deal would create a company with 12,000 employees, $826 million in annual revenues and 2,700 hospital and nursing home beds. The merged operation doesn't yet have a name.
Minnesota lawmakers are revamping MinnesotaCare legislation in an effort to pass it before their session ends May 22. The state received federal waivers late last month to expand the program, but the waivers will be worthless without legislation authorizing state funding. Last week, fights continued over one provision that would preclude coverage of abortions and one that would enroll more uninsured residents in the system. MinnesotaCare now provides coverage to families with children living at up to 275% of the federal poverty level and to single individuals at up to 125% of poverty. The federal waiver would expand the benefits offered to children and provide federal money for the program. A second waiver authorizes a pilot project that would combine Medicare and state benefits for about 4,000 elderly in eight counties.
A federal judge in Kansas City, Mo., last week denied a motion by two Joplin, Mo., hospitals to dismiss an antitrust complaint against their merger. As of late last week, however, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple hadn't ruled on the Federal Trade Commission's request for a preliminary injunction or the hospitals' request that he declare their deal legal. A hearing took place in late March. That month, 185-bed Freeman Hospital and 95-bed Oak Hill Hospital merged after the court refused to issue a temporary restraining order in the FTC case.
A physician-led health network is forming in Boston in the shadow of several networks spearheaded by tertiary teaching hospitals. Newton-based Allied Community Health System would combine groups of physicians with community hospitals, including the Caritas Christi network of facilities operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, a Caritas spokeswoman said. The system has been forming quietly for more than a year and wasn't planning to go public yet, but the Boston Herald disclosed that New England Medical Center was considering joining. That was news to Pathway Health Network, which is still in talks with New England Medical about a merger, a Pathway spokeswoman said.