One company that would seem to have a huge stake in the upcoming congressional elections is Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
Rep. Fortney (Pete) Stark of California, the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means health subcommittee, has been calling on HHS' inspector general's office to investigate Columbia for various business practices Stark thinks may be illegal (June 3, p. 4).
Last week Stark was at it again. In a speech to the American Medical Group Association, Stark implored the group practice executives not to affiliate with Columbia.
"Hopefully, (Columbia's executives) will all be in jail soon for the crimes that they have committed across the country," Stark said.
When asked if Stark would take congressional action against Columbia if the Democrats regain control of Congress after the November elections, Stark smiled and said, "It depends on what they come up with at (HHS)."
Charity-care side effect.Freshman U.S. Rep. Greg Ganske, M.D., will suffer no career-threatening effects from a viral illness he picked up while on a charitable mission to perform surgery in Peru, his physician said.
The Iowa Republican likely picked up two viruses during the trip, bugs usually transmitted through contaminated food or water.
One is an intestinal bacteria, which causes symptoms such as diarrhea and is easily treated with antibiotics. The other involved the brain stem and caused symptoms including double vision, slurred speech and "some mild confusion," said Joe Doro, M.D., a neurologist in Des Moines, Iowa, who is treating Ganske.
Ganske, a plastic surgeon who decided to join the Republican revolution by running for Congress in 1994, remained hospitalized last week. He will face recuperation time at home before a return to the campaign trail, Doro said.
Doro said he would prefer Ganske return to work on a part-time basis, something neither physicians nor congressmen seeking re-election are partial to.
Skinflints.When it comes to keeping control under managed care, Florida physicians seem to have trouble finding their wallets.
Physicians are always complaining about HMOs and how they could run them better. But an effort under way to establish a physician-owned-and-managed HMO in the Sunshine State has run into a lack of investors.
The Florida Medical Association has given 17,000 licensed physicians a chance to capitalize an HMO known as Doctors' Health Plan.
After two months of solicitation, physicians have only ponied up $1.5 million of the minimum $30 million required to get Doctors' launched, the FMA reports.
Plans call for the HMO to become capitalized by the end of this year and begin enrollment in early 1997. But with three months to go and healthcare analysts talking about managed-care saturation in Florida, Doctors' Health Plan appears to be only a dream for doctors longing for the days when they were in charge.
"Healthcare in Florida is at a critical crossroads," said Charles P. Hayes, M.D., DHP chairman. "The formation of a doctor-owned-and-controlled HMO represents the best chance for this state's physicians to regain the rights that have been arbitrarily taken away from them."
But will physicians buy enough shares in DHP to get that chance? If they don't dig into their pockets, who can they blame?
No 4% solution.Founding members of a business cooperative created to keep healthcare costs down got a rude awakening last week when they received renewal notices saying their rates were increasing.
The Cooperative for Health Insurance Purchasing made its debut with much fanfare a year ago, promising members their healthcare rates would not go up by more than 4% per year. Members learned their costs will go up an average 8% to 10% but some firms may see substantially higher increases because of changes in their employee makeup, said cooperative Executive Director Elisa Hamill.
The healthcare cooperative was formed by the Alliance, a not-for-profit coalition of Colorado companies, to provide affordable health insurance by grouping companies to get better leverage through size. It contracted with four HMOs, which did not raise their rates this year. Instead, higher-than-expected utilization by employees of small businesses pushed up the costs.
Hamill denied there was any mismanagement involved. "There was no model in the United States that pooled small, medium and large employers together, so we estimated commissions. We used our best judgment," she told the Associated Press.
About 680 companies with 11,000 enrollees participate in the cooperative. About 85% of those companies have fewer than 50 employees.
A matter of perspective.Outliers is chuckling over news that an American-Israel business group in Chicago plans to honor Baxter International head Vernon R. Loucks Jr. as its "Industrialist of the Year" next month.
Whew! It was only three years ago that Baxter was in hot water with a number of Jewish interests. It had provided information about its business with Israel to Arab League officials in order to expand in Arab countries. Some groups didn't take kindly to its subsequent guilty plea to breaking federal law against aiding the Arabs in their economic boycott of Israel (March 29, 1993, p. 4).
The American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Metropolitan Chicago says it wasn't among the critics. From its perspective, Baxter has been a good business partner, most recently opening a new research center in Israel.
A Baxter spokeswoman said, "There was a lot of confusion back several years ago when it was mischaracterized as Baxter boycotting Israel, which is just not the case. We've been doing business with Israel for over 25 years. There's a lot of great things that Baxter has done for Israel."