Several bills that would have imposed taxes on Iowa hospitals and other tax-exempt property were defeated this month by the Iowa Legislature. The move had gained momentum earlier in the state's legislative session after the Des Moines City Council asked the city's hospitals to help pay for police and fire protection (Feb. 13, p. 16). The six not-for-profit hospitals own almost $240 million worth of property that could bring in nearly $1.2 million, according to the city of Des Moines. The voluntary bills would be based on a tax rate of about $5 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Meanwhile, the Hospital Association of Greater Des Moines is working on alternatives to a tax and plans to report to the City Council this summer.
Three Denver hospitals last week announced an agreement to share some inpatient and outpatient services after more than a year of planning. Under the pact, 105-bed National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine will transfer most inpatients to leased units at 313-bed University Hospital and 225-bed Children's Hospital. It will maintain an inpatient unit for chronically ill tuberculosis patients until University completes a renovation later this year. In return, University and Children's will move several clinics for respiratory, allergic and immune-system diseases to National Jewish. Talks took place last year (April 18, 1994, p. 16; Sept. 5, 1994, p. 20) as National Jewish struggled against declining inpatient admissions and an increase in Medi-caid and managed-care patients. This March, Standard & Poor's Corp. placed National Jewish on CreditWatch with negative implications, partly because of the planned lease. The New York-based credit-rating agency said it isn't sure how the agreement will affect the specialty hospital's finances.
Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio, and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation have signed an agreement that will allow them to exchange financial information and explore ways to collaborate. The organizations already are loosely affiliated through the Cleveland Health Network, which includes nine providers in northeast Ohio. Spokesmen for both organizations said it's uncertain where the agreement will lead. Cleveland Clinic, a major teaching and research center with a 936-bed hospital, has been strengthening its regional ties. Last month it announced an affiliation with 1,014-bed MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, and in March it agreed to merge with 279-bed Marymount Hospital in Garfield Heights, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. Summa includes 478-bed Akron City Hospital and 659-bed St. Thomas Hospital, both in Akron.
The Federal Trade Commission voted 4-0 to approve a consent agreement with Boston Scientific Corp., clearing the way for two acquisitions. Officials charged that the company would control almost all domestic sales of intravascular ultrasound catheters following its purchases of Cardiovascular Imaging Systems and SciMed Life Systems. Such catheters are used to diagnose and treat heart disease. Under the agreement, Boston Scientific will license patents for the catheters to Hewlett-Packard Co. or another purchaser.
MedPartners, a Birmingham, Ala.-based physician practice management company, has agreed to merge with MED Center, operator of seven Cleveland-area medical centers. Terms weren't announced. MED Center provides urgent care, occupational medicine and family practice medicine. It employs 220 people, including 21 primary-care physicians. MedPartners, which operates physician practices in eight Southern states, said it intends to affiliate with additional medical groups in the Cleveland area to create a comprehensive network. The merger, which MED Center said will provide it with management, information systems and capital, is expected to close during the second quarter of 1995.
Under a one-year $76,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Hastings Center will study the ethical dimensions of rationing decisions made by managed-care executives and develop a systematic method for assessing those decisions. The independent not-for-profit research center, based in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., also will develop guidelines for fair allocation of resources. The study will focus on physician incentives, legal implications, quality of care, technology management, and the relationship between a plan's business managers and its physicians.