If you've been following the sagas of the American Hospital Association and other healthcare advocacy organizations, you know that lobbying groups are coming under increased attack lately by Congress.
But are those groups really less well thought of than others lobbying on Capitol Hill?
Not according to a survey done for the National Association of Home Care by the Washington public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard.
The study was based on interviews with 81 House and Senate staff members. Questions-such as "How effective and successful is the organization as an advocate for its members?" and "What is your overall level of respect or regard for the organization?"-were asked about 13 healthcare lobbying groups.
The Hospice Association of America received the best overall score of the groups, 7.1 out of a possible 10. The HAA was followed by (surprise!) the NAHC at 7.0 and the recently maligned AHA at 6.8. Bringing up the rear were the National Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (5.0), the Health Insurance Association of America (5.2) and the American Medical Association (5.8). The American Association of Retired Persons, also attacked recently, wasn't included in the survey.
He's popular somewhere.Speaking of surveys, while Republican presidential hopefuls and President Clinton pressed the flesh this month in New Hampshire, Outliers snagged an early sampling of healthcare leaders planning to vote in the 1996 election.
President Clinton was the overwhelming favorite of those sampled at the Catholic Health Association's annual assembly in Minneapolis June 4-7.
Of nearly 200 polled, 53% said they'd vote for Clinton. Coming in second was "none of the above," at 26%. Others making a dent in the percentage sampled were Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) (16%); House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) (2%); billionaire Ross Perot (2%); and Patrick Buchanan, television commentator and former speech writer in the Reagan and Nixon administrations (0.5%).
CHA leaders didn't appear to blame Clinton for the failure of healthcare reform last year. Rather, 53% blamed special interest groups. Another 58% said they disapproved of the GOP's "Contract with America."
Grass is greener.It was an offhand remark, made to compliment his hosts, but given the context it could have made folks in Nashville, Tenn., a little nervous.
Richard Scott, the peripatetic president and chief executive officer of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., was the keynote speaker last month at a healthcare forum in Dallas sponsored by the Dallas Business Journal. Scott, who started Columbia in nearby Fort Worth, Texas, in 1987, told the assemblage: "I left Texas two years ago and moved to Louisville, then moved from Louisville to Nashville. Let me tell you that the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a great place to operate a business. I wish that we were headquartered here."
That's interesting news for Nashville, which lured Columbia from Louisville, Ky., with more than $26 million in tax breaks, including a decade-long property-tax waiver for its headquarters building. Before that, Kentucky had given Columbia a multimillion-dollar deal to stay in Louisville. But Scott complained about Kentucky's provider taxes.
No recourse.Last week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by a Louisiana doctor who claimed he was libeled when a newspaper reported that the hospital where he practiced had the highest Caesarean birth rate in 34 states.
In 1992 Washington-based Public Citizen's health group reported that Abrom Kaplan Memorial Hospital, Kaplan, La., had a 57.5% Caesarean rate, the highest of more than 2,000 hospitals studied. The Daily Advertiser, in nearby Lafayette, quoted Public Citizen's Sidney Wolfe as saying that "Louisiana's women are being butchered by their obstetricians in the way they do so many C-sections." That prompted the hospital's only obstetrician, Alton Romero, M.D., to sue the newspaper.
The Louisiana Supreme Court earlier ruled that no trial was needed and Romero's lawyers were unable "to pinpoint false statements."
Virtual healthcare.In SimHealth, a computer game by Maxis-the same company behind the popular SimCity-you play the role of a politician sworn to reform the healthcare system. You can start with the current U.S. health system and try to hammer out the dents, or scrap the whole thing and design your own healthcare system from scratch.
A view of "Main Street" allows players to see the consequences of their decisions on society almost immediately. The buildings on Main Street represent various national sectors affected by the healthcare system: large and small employers, insurers, hospitals, doctors, government services, and the national standard of living. Make a bad decision and an entire industry can crumble overnight.
SimHealth's creators are quick to note that while the game is not intended to predict the future, it does help players see the healthcare system as a whole by simulating the complex, often confusing interaction between the system's diverse components.
The Markle Foundation, a philanthropic organization committed to using information technology to promote political participation, sponsored SimHealth to educate citizens and stimulate public debate about healthcare reform.
The game was designed in the wake of the healthcare reform debate as an educational tool for government and business policymakers.