President Clinton's call in September for a healthcare quality commission raised yawns among health policy analysts and independent observers, who saw little value in a commission with no legislative power or real authority.
Somewhat surprisingly, special interest groups that might be expected to concur in that opinion instead came out in glowing praise of the idea.
The reason: No lobbying group can afford to jeopardize its potential influence by speaking ill of any White House initiative.
According to White House health adviser Chris Jennings, the administration has received a nomination for a commission seat "from every group you can imagine," even some groups that were previously unknown to the White House. Jennings estimated the number of provider nominees at more than 100.
Because the commission will have about 20 seats equally divided among providers, insurers, business and labor, most provider groups will be out of luck. And, assuming the nurses (who endorsed Clinton early), the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association are guaranteed a seat, that leaves just two seats for all those other groups.
"There are definitely going to be some people who aren't happy," Jennings acknowledged.
The members probably will be announced shortly after the election, and the panel is due to report its findings in September 1997, Jennings said.
Agnes Plumb was so private that the only surviving photograph of her as an adult was taken in 1961. She kept to herself most of her life, never marrying and tending to an invalid mother for many years. She lived in a modest home in Studio City, a suburb of Los Angeles, from the late 1930s until she died last year at age 88.
Until early last month, few knew that Plumb's estate was worth $98 million, most of it coming from 1.3 million shares of Kellogg Co. stock she had accumulated over the years. So the beneficiaries of her estate-Orthopaedic Hospital in Los Angeles, University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and the Crippled Children's Society, Los Angeles-were stunned when they each received $22.5 million. For Orthopaedic and the Crippled Children's, the gift was the largest ever; it was the second-largest gift to UCLA's medical school.
In Plumb's will, Orthopaedic and Crippled Children's were asked to spend their shares on needy children with birth defects, while St. Jude and UCLA were asked to put the money toward research and to pay for organ transplants for indigent patients.
"This is unbelievable. It just came out of the blue," Orthopaedic Hospital Foundation President Eloise Helwig told the Los Angeles Times.
It turns out Plumb had made donations to the organizations in the past, but they usually were checks of $500 or less.
Employees of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Calif., have laid down some tracks.
Late last year, a dozen of the hospital's employees cut spiritual songs for a CD titled The Fruits of His Spirit Come Together.
The album was the brainchild of Sister Mary Keaveney, St. Francis' president and chief executive officer. The hospital traditionally puts on an annual holiday fair, during which management does most of the entertaining. Some of the rank-and-file workers began to press for their right to participate, and Keaveney thought an album might be a good vehicle.
Thirty of the 1,600 employees at the hospital auditioned. Among the 12 chosen to sing were nurses and clerical staff, as well as collections specialist Tawanda Washington, who had previously sung backup on a concert tour with pop star Hammer.
While The Fruits of His Spirit Come Together is not going to go gold anytime soon (St. Francis has yet to recoup its $15,000 investment), the hospital gift shop has sold more than 1,000 copies in the past year for $9.99 each. Half the proceeds go to the singers, while the other half will pay for scholarships for needy children who want to pursue careers in healthcare. St. Francis' staff now plans on releasing a Christmas album.
Nordstrom department stores are renowned for customer service. Now, the Seattle-based chain is slowly expanding the scope of that service.
In September, Nordstrom opened mammography centers in its stores in the Southern California communities of Glendale and Riverside. Those facilities joined a center that opened in October 1995 at Nordstrom's store in the Old Orchard shopping center in Skokie, Ill.
The Skokie mammography facility, operated by affiliated Evanston (Ill.) Hospital and Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, Ill., screened 2,614 women during its first year. More than 20 women were referred for biopsies, and nine were diagnosed with breast cancer, the hospitals said.
"Our desire is that the mammography centers will provide women with a less threatening environment for these services and raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer," said Peter Nordstrom, co-president of the chain.
Other sites may open at the discretion of individual store managers, officials said.
For instance, Nordstrom's Mall of America store in Bloomington, Minn., hosted a temporary mammography screening center during October, which was Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The Southern California sites are run by staff from nearby hospitals and operate six days a week. The Glendale center is operated by Huntington Memorial Hospital and Hill Breast Center. The Riverside site is operated by Loma Linda University Cancer Institute.
Customer-patients are being charged a flat cash fee of $90 at Glendale and $55 at Riverside, the latter price a special rate that runs through November. Receipts are being issued so patients may seek reimbursement from insurers, according to Nordstrom officials. Patients may make an appointment or walk in.