That bipartisan spirit in Washington sure is nice.
House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chairman William Thomas (R-Calif.) is repeatedly referring to the "cuts" and "tax increases" in the Medicare portion of President Clinton's fiscal 1998 budget plan.
The plan would reduce projected Medicare spending by $100 billion over five years, partly by keeping the beneficiary share of costs at 25% rather than allowing it to fall to about 19% in 2000 as under current law.
No actual cuts or tax hikes are in the plan, but Thomas, in his most sarcastic tone, thanked the Clinton administration for "showing me that these really are cuts."
He was referring to the attacks the GOP has endured in the past two years for plans that weren't all that different from the president's. Ah, that post-inaugural glow.
Truth in naming.At last week's American Hospital Association annual meeting in Washington, the AHA and eight other hospital groups announced they were forming a coalition to push for enactment of legislation allowing provider-sponsored organizations to contract directly with Medicare.
While AHA officials say the coalition doesn't yet have a name, Outliers submits the following suggestions:
Physicians and Hospitals Living to Eliminate Greedy Middlemen (PHLEGM).
Providers for Integrated Group Systems (PIGS).
Hospital Opportunists for Group Systems (HOGS).
ALLiance for Money in Integrated NEtworks (ALLMINE).
And last but not least: Up With Providers.
Disunity.You can rule out a merger of the nation's two top medical group organizations.
Donald Fisher, chief executive officer of the American Medical Group Association, told Outliers he doesn't see any possibility of uniting with the Medical Group Management Association.
The AMGA, which represents large multispecialty groups averaging 240 physicians apiece, doesn't have much in common with the MGMA, which is made up of small specialty practices.
"I am not convinced there is much similarity between a HealthSystem Minnesota and a 10-physician group. They're really different entities," said Fisher, referring to the integrated system in St. Louis Park, Minn.
MGMA chief executive Tom Adams wasn't so dismissive. "In this day and age, you never say no to an opportunity to sit down and talk to another group," he said.
Some people believe unification is inevitable. The AMGA's predecessor, the American Group Practice Association, nearly agreed to merge with the MGMA in 1994. But Fisher said his group has since become more focused by eliminating single-specialty groups and merging with the Unified Medical Group Association last year.
First Mike Wallace. Now this.Cleveland public relations firm William Silverman & Co. is seeking new clients after being fired from its 18-year gig with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Ohio.
The Blues said it decided to bring PR in-house to create an image of "openness" with the public. John J. Polk, president of Blue Cross' Northeast Ohio Community Health Plan, will direct the insurer's PR and corporate image work temporarily.
Seems a little late for the Blues to start worrying about its image, given its plan to sell most of its assets to Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. by the end of March. That deal hinges on the uncertain approval of the Ohio Department of Insurance.
Blues Chairman and CEO John Burry Jr. "regrets that the organization had not adopted a more open and proactive approach" earlier, Polk said. "No doubt there is a whole bunch of things we could have done differently."
Regardless, the Silverman agency deserves a spot in the Flack Hall of Fame. It boldly defended the Columbia sale, calling it a "joint venture," and attempted to explain multimillion-dollar golden parachutes for Blues executives. Silverman, the firm's co-owner and namesake, went so far as to call Burry the Michael Jordan of healthcare integration. Last summer, Silverman weathered an ambush by "60 Minutes" on behalf of his top client.
Kooped off.C. Everett Koop may have made it into the Health Care Hall of Fame, but he isn't doing so well with his medical video series.
"It is one of the saddest stories I could tell you," he said. "First I was outraged. Then I was depressed. Then I was just mad."
The former U.S. surgeon general had high hopes for the consumer-friendly video series. From alcoholism to ulcers, the tapes offered plenty of practical advice aimed at helping people manage their own healthcare. Koop served as chairman and medical director of the video series, marketed under the trademark "Time Life Medical."
But in December, publishing giant Time Life terminated its licensing agreement with Patient Education Media, which produced the videos. The agreement enabled the video marketer to trade on Time Life's cachet.
Patient Education Media, which recently ceased operations, suffered from weak sales and "over-aggressive spending and expansion," according to a Los Angeles Times story. The Times said the company is considering a bankruptcy filing. But J. Keith Green, Patient Education's president and CEO, would only say the company is looking for a buyer.
Quotable."If I tried Frist's water, would this be more bipartisan?"-HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, referring to glasses of water on a speaker's podium at the American Hospital Association's annual meeting. Each glass bore a label that designated it for a specific speaker. Sen. William F. Frist (R-Tenn.), sometimes a foe of Clinton administration healthcare policies, followed Shalala to the dais.