States are determined to protect consumers from heartless HMOs, with good cause in some cases. But in Minnesota and other states, legislators' bid to mother healthcare consumers is getting a bit smothering.
For example, an amendment to one Minnesota bill doesn't just ban gag clauses, it spells out physicians' right to tell patients they're in the wrong plan for their condition, according to the Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership. "It sounds quite burdensome," says Richard Korman, MHHP senior vice president.
Another provision of the Minnesota bills requires licensed professionals to wear name tags identifying their profession. This is so patients know when they're being treated by a registered nurse or a nurse's aide. The MHHP said the bill might enter conference committee by late last week.
In Illinois, managed care was the boogeyman in a majority of 157 bills reviewed by the Illinois Hospitals and HealthSystems Association. A standard provision would require insurers to provide patients with a name, address and telephone number to contact if their claim is denied. Although the Illinois House went hog-wild and passed most of the bills, the Senate seems unlikely to make any decisions until next spring, shortly before elections, the IHHA says.
Shhhhhhhhhh. And pay up!True to their word, executives of the American Hospital Association haven't closed their library to the public. But they sure have made it a less desirable destination.
The AHA had said it would keep the library open after it was revealed that a year earlier the association was secretly planning to get rid of the library's books, reduce its periodical collection to about 30 from more than 1,000, allow only AHA members access to the library's historical collection and, in most cases, refer nonmembers to other sources for their information needs.
The library, known formally as the AHA Resource Center, "houses the nation's most comprehensive collection of both current and historical hospital and health services administration literature," the AHA boasts. Backlash to the association's plans by some health services researchers forced executives to reconsider.
And, after more than a year of consideration, a new library access policy took effect April 16. The public may use the library but must pay a $25-per-day "access fee." And when they're there, they can't take out any books.
Department of Freudian slips.An Associated Press news story out of Berkeley, Calif., on April 29 about Ralph Nader's attack on Kaiser Permanente (May 5, p. 14) contained the following: "Nader asked for the new patient moratorium in a letter to the Department of Corrections, California's HMO regulator."
Now, many consumer groups may view the corrections department as the proper regulator of the managed-care industry, but in fact it's the Department of Corporations that does the job.
The association formerly known as. . . A certain pop musician from Minneapolis sprang to mind when Outliers saw the new name for the Ohio Hospital Association. It's OHA: The Association for Hospitals and Health Systems.
The name is meant "to reflect the evolution of its members into healthcare systems and other health-related organizations." But the result is cumbersome. And where is the word Ohio?
Further investigation revealed a disturbing trend. It seems many hospital associations want to retain their old acronyms while broadening their scope.
Try squeezing these new monikers in your Rolodex: GHA: An Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (formerly the Georgia Hospital Association), MHA: The Association of Maryland Hospitals and Health Systems and KHA-An Association of Kentucky Hospitals and Health Systems.
Out of their element. Out of curiosity, Outliers bought a ticket to the big health expo at Madison Square Garden on a recent Saturday. And, boy, did we get our money's worth. The packed exhibitor's hall offered more entertaining booths per square foot than the midway at Coney Island.
Vendors pushed everything from reflexology to Rolfingcq, a form of deep tissue massage and body manipulation. One exhibitor demonstrated a shieldlike pendant on a chain said to protect its wearers from energy-sapping electromagnetic radiation and "other people's energy." Another touted "personalized detoxification programs" based on eye and blood analyses.
So what was Prudential doing there? Marketing its financial service products to small business owners, of course. "We thought it would be more mainstream," admitted Cheryl C. Antonio, a Uniondale, N.Y., insurance agent. Convincing a bunch of health nuts to plan for their retirement and ultimate demise is one tough sell. But Antonio persisted, picking up a number of solid leads.
Smoked. While it may seem pointless for a healthcare provider to be worried about the health effects of smoking in the home of the triple cheeseburger and french fries, Mercy Health System of Farmington Hills, Mich., went to some effort to make a point.
Last month, the Catholic hospital system succeeded in putting a measure before Wendy's International shareholders that would have banned smoking in new franchisees' burger joints as well as those owned outright by the Dublin, Ohio-based company. Mercy owns 2,800 shares of Wendy's stock.
"Part of our advocacy efforts include urging companies like Wendy's to become more aware and socially responsible by providing a comfortable, smoke-free environment for all customers, which in this case includes millions of children," a Mercy spokeswoman says.
But only 13.6% of shareholders saw it Mercy's way and voted for the proposal, a Wendy's spokesman says. So the company will continue to obey local ordinances that ban smoking and allow managers elsewhere to permit or nix lighting up as they see fit.
Will Mercy's advocacy expand to include the content of the restaurant's food? The system's spokeswoman says that isn't on the menu of options.