Not-for-profits in the Empire State clearly aren't ready to roll out the red carpet for investor-owned hospital chains.
"Our members have long opposed changing the state law (which bans investor-owned companies), and they continue to do so for a number of reasons," said David C. Rich, senior vice president of government affairs at the Greater New York Hospital Association.
Rich voiced hospitals' viewpoint last week in a lively debate hosted by New York University's health policy and management program.
New Yorkers still expect their hospitals to care for the poor and provide money-losing trauma, burn and neonatal care, Rich pointed out. Not-for-profits are meeting that mission even as they begin to compete fiercely against one another to survive and become efficient, he added.
Investor-owned chains "cannot match the missions of not-for-profits in the current healthcare marketplace," he charged, and they would be "shirking their responsibility" to shareholders if they tried.
The panel's investor-owned representative, James M. Usdan, lashed back. "I'm struck by the arrogance" of the statement that "only one system can work" in New York, said Usdan, president and CEO of RehabCare Group. "You not-for-profits in New York have had a clear field (free of investor-owned competitors) and look what a mess you've created."
Highly regulated and notoriously undercapitalized, New York hospitals are "probably the weakest pool of credits in the United States," noted Joan C. Marron, managing director at PaineWebber. Marron stopped short of touting investor-owned ownership as the answer to New York's problems, but, in her view, the chains "have demonstrated the ability to make the hard decisions."
After the debate, NYU professor Charles Brecher polled the audience on scrapping New York's investor-owned ban. Wall Street got the equivalent of a Bronx cheer in reply.
Chest-thumping.Richard Scott may finally be emerging from his media bunker, but he sure hasn't changed his tune.
In the past month, the chairman and chief executive officer of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. has granted rare interviews with National Public Radio and the Nashville Tennessean.
Many top executives in both the not-for-profit and investor-owned healthcare sectors have hoped Scott would tone down his "Columbia is No. 1" rhetoric and his attacks on tax-exempts.
Instead, Scott boasted of his corporate success and took more shots at not-for-profits.
In one apparent slip, Scott told the Tennessean: "In many cases, you don't have a right to know who the board members are of the tax-exempt hospitals." There are no such restrictions anywhere Outliers has heard of.
"Our systems are better than anybody's ever built in this industry," Scott told the newspaper.
Rx for trust.Who are America's most trusted professionals? A poll for the National Community Pharmacists Association found that-surprise!-pharmacists top the list.
The poll of more than 800 adults conducted in December by the Gallup Organization found that 64% rated the trustworthiness of pharmacists as "high" or "very high," eight times that of the lowest-ranking professional, car salesmen.
The next-highest-ranking healthcare professionals were doctors, with 55% of respondents ranking their trustworthiness as high or very high, followed closely by dentists at 53%.
On a personal note, Outliers was dismayed, but not necessarily surprised, to note that journalists' trustworthiness was ranked far lower than the pharmacists' at 23% even falling one point behind the public opinion pollsters who conducted the survey. But media types at least outranked members of Congress.
Steamed.A rule of thumb in the publicity world is when there's bad news about you, don't help spread the word. That lesson appears not to have found its way to MedCath, a Charlotte, N.C.-based company that's building a chain of heart centers across the country.
Last September, we reported on the publicly traded company's ongoing war with the Wall Street Journal, which has been critical of its expansion and the quality of its services. The Journal also took note of MedCath's stock plunge.
A recent article in the Journal's Texas edition about MedCath's 60-bed heart hospital in McAllen dealt with the effects of two physician departures at the hospital and questioned the facility's competence.
Despite the fact that the stories appeared in regional editions of the newspaper, MedCath has fired off national news releases hitting back at the Journal.
"Isn't there any real news out there?" snapped MedCath President Stephen R. Puckett. "I suppose we should be flattered by a national publication's continuing obsession with the day-to-day operations of our little heart hospital in McAllen, Texas."
MedCath's stock price tumbled last summer after the paper published an article that questioned the hospital's financial standing and mentioned the departure of one physician. While the stock was trading steadily at around $15.75 last week, it was down drastically from the 52-week high of $42.63.
Quotables."We don't want to take over the healthcare system. They want a government takeover. They're trying to do it in salami slices."-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), referring to Democrats' proposed initiatives to cover children and temporarily unemployed workers with health insurance policies.
""Happy Birthday, Mr. Jones. Please contact us to schedule your proctoscopy."-Gregory H. Wolf, chief operating officer at Humana, giving an example of a birthday card health plans could send out to 40-something men as part of an effort to show they care about patients and their health.