The Senate Judiciary Committee has stripped provisions from an immigration bill that would have required hospitals and other providers to pay a foreign labor certification fee of $10,000 or 10% of the employee's income. On a 13-4 vote, the panel voted to send the immigration bill to the full Senate, where it is expected to be debated the week of April 15. The American Hospital Association and other provider groups opposed the fee, saying it would penalize hospitals, particularly in underserved areas, that rely on foreign physicians and nurses.
Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound and a coalition of its employee unions have reached tentative agreement on cuts in wages and benefit s for about 5,700 workers during the next two years. The staff-model HMO based in Seattle has had to cut its premiums to meet harsh competition. It lost $11 million in 1995 and expects to lose $68 million in 1996. Group Health soug ht and obtained $33 million in labor-cost savings in the contract. The unions have agreed to a 1% wage cut for the life of the agreement, plus copayments on office visits and prescriptions in their medical coverage. In return, layo ffs will be limited to 10% of any bargaining unit. Chris Bodin, a negotiator for Service Employees International Union 1199NW, said the unions also won heightened scrutiny of using temporary workers, and a mechanism to include nonunionized Group Health employees in bargaining units.
New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. may cut as many as 3,000 positions from its 38,000-member work force under an emergency budget being reviewed by corporation officials, the New York Daily News reported last week. The plan reportedly would help close an anticipated $250 million budget gap. "No decisions about layoffs have been made," said HHC spokeswoman Jane Zimmerman. She confirmed, however, th at HHC President Luis Marcos, M.D., has imposed a hiring freeze on all the public health system's facilities for 60 days because of the "tenuous position of the corporation resulting from state and city budget reductions." HHC is reviewing "various strategies for work reduction," she added.
An upgrade of University of Pennsylvania Health Services' bond rating last week by Standard & Poor's Corp. is expected to save the Philadelphia-based healthcare syst em $1.9 million in interest costs over the life of an upcoming $525 million bond issuance. The New York-based rating agency said the increase to AA from AA- reflects significant development of the system's primary-care network, agg ressive growth of its managed-care business, strong financial results and its relationship with the university. Earlier this month, Moody's Investors Service, New York, confirmed its Aa rating on the Philadelphia system. Its obliga ted group now comprises the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the university's clinical practices. Presbyterian Medical Center of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which was acquired by HUP last July, becomes a member of the obligated group with the upcoming bond sale.