President Clinton's signing of balanced-budget legislation last week was accompanied by the usual blizzard of faxes and press releases from lobbying groups claiming victory on certain provisions of the new law.
But the American Hospital Association's brag letter has ruffled some feathers among the groups that made expanding children's healthcare coverage their chief mission.
The letter signed by AHA President Richard Davidson said the group "fought for, and won, $24 billion" over five years to fund the purchase of health insurance for children. It gave no credit to any other group.
"I don't think the AHA helped fight for or win anything," grumbled a representative from one of the groups leading the children's healthcare charge, who asked not to be identified. Another noted the AHA's absence from events, letters and strategy sessions advocating a children's health agenda.
Thomas Nickels, the AHA's vice president and deputy director of federal relations, says the group didn't see any reason to lobby hard for the children's health issue once at least $16 billion had been pledged to funding expanded coverage.
But after the Senate approved a budget package that raised the figure to $24 billion, the AHA did weigh in to make sure the full amount was included in the final bill, he says. "Once it was $24 billion, then it was a real issue," Nickels says.
So how many kids will it cover?Speaking of dubious claims, exactly how many uninsured children will receive healthcare coverage under the new budget?
If you ask President Clinton, the number is "up to 5 million."
Ask the House Commerce Committee and it's less than half that-about 2.2 million-and its estimate is based on previous projections by the Congressional Budget Office.
In truth, the CBO-often the arbiter of statistical disputes in Washington-has not prepared a final estimate of how many children would be covered.
A preliminary CBO estimate said the budget provisions will extend coverage to about 2.1 million children who were previously uninsured and absorb another 1.4 million who previously had private coverage.
No matter what, the budget is likely to cover more than Clinton's original plan, which the CBO estimated would cost $21.9 billion over five years and cover only 800,000 children.
From the Department of Words Better Left Unsaid.Don't believe everything you read in the paper, advised Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. executive Jerry Fulks last month. Specifically, he took umbrage at the portrait of his company in certain articles in the Wall Street Journal.
"I have never witnessed the kind of behavior or pressure for profits that one employee alleges to have received during his brief career with Columbia," he wrote in a letter to the editor published July 3 in the Journal. "If he committed `felonies every day,' as he admitted to doing, they were his own responsibility, certainly not that of his employer."
Fulks, chief executive officer of Columbia Lanier Park Regional Hospital in Gainesville, Ga., went on to maintain that the company will correct any corporate misdeeds, "but thus far none have been articulated. . . .All that has been produced are assumptions and innuendo in the media without any supporting evidence, despite the fact that three months have passed since the first news was published about the raid on Columbia's offices in El Paso, Texas."
At the time the letter was published, we now know, Columbia's board was having second thoughts about President and CEO Richard Scott's aggressive business tactics and his stonewall defense of the federal Medicare investigation. Scott resigned July 25.
Columbia Lanier Park, incidentally, was not one of the Columbia facilities involved in raids by federal agents on July 15.
More Columbia fallout. Nashville's weekly tabloid, the Nashville Scene, in a column naming "winners and losers" in the news, dubbed two Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. public relations officials losers for their actions the week of July 31.
In his article "Desperately seeking the news," reporter Henry Walker says Columbia spokeswoman Eve Hutcherson gets a loser award for telling the press the morning of July 25 that an earlier Associated Press report of Richard Scott's resignation was "incorrect, while Scott himself was cleaning out his office."
Lindy Richardson, most recently head of marketing and public affairs, also ranked with Hutcherson. Walker wrote that Richardson could now spend her spare time writing "a media relations textbook on how to alienate reporters, paint your boss as being secretive and robotic, and convince the public that your company has plenty to hide from the government."
Incoming!Recent revelations by HHS' inspector general's office and the General Accounting Office that Medicare pays out more than $20 billion a year in fraudulent or wasteful claims has led congressional leaders of both parties to criticize HCFA for its anti-fraud efforts.
The attacks have made HHS Secretary Donna Shalala a little defensive. "I told (HHS Inspector General) June Gibbs Brown that, because I ordered all the audits and studies, I felt like I had brought the artillery in on our own position," Shalala says.
Sunny side up. Just when Outliers thought another story about the dark forces of HMOs would send us over the edge, along came some rays of sunshine.
A spokesman for L.A. Care, a community-based managed-care plan partnering with commercial HMOs to serve California's Medicaid program, alerted the media that its giant rival in that market, Foundation Health Systems, had copied its logo. Both logos feature a very similar rendition of the sun, with L.A. Care's incorporating a heart in the middle.
The Los Angeles Times' David Olmos noted the brewing storm, calling it a "duel in the sun." Olmos quoted an FHS spokesman saying its predecessor, Health Systems International, had in fact been using a sun logo since the mid-1980s. That was long before L.A. Care was a gleam in some state health official's eye.
Apparently there's not much new under the sun, at least for those who design corporate logos. But then the sun is hard to beat for conveying a warm, cheerful feeling. Just take a look at the latest Prozac ads.