For existing home health agencies, President Clinton's recent industry crackdown may not be all bad.
While details haven't been released, a HCFA spokesman said last week the six-month moratorium on home-care certifications will apply both to new agencies and to new branches of existing agencies. The ban on new agencies will help shield existing agencies from new competition.
"(HHS' inspector general's office) says that as many as 40% of all home health bills are bad now; all this does is allow (agencies) to keep it up without any new competition," says a healthcare lobbyist, who asked not to be identified.
The National Association for Home Care proposed a similar moratorium to the White House two years ago, and in a press release issued after the president's announcement, the group supported the change (Sept. 22, p. 13).
The NAHC's relationship with the White House has been up and down in recent years. The group was among those represented at a White House coffee fund-raiser and later got one of the coveted seats on the president's healthcare quality commission, but it also has been the target of strong critical rhetoric by the administration.
Sentenced for scam.The man behind one of the philanthropic world's most notorious frauds was sentenced last week to 12 years in federal prison. But the nightmare lingers for many of the not-for-profits victimized by John G. Bennett Jr., founder of the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy.
Bennett persuaded churches, charities and other not-for-profits-including hospitals-to hand over cash donations, promising to double their money in six months with contributions from wealthy anonymous philanthropists. The scheme fell apart two years ago when the Radnor, Pa.-based organization filed for bankruptcy, owing as many as 150 charitable groups a total of $135 million (May 22, 1995, p. 6).
Not-for-profits that lost money in the Ponzi scheme may collect as much as 80 cents on the dollar. But Philhaven, a Mount Gretna, Pa.-based psychiatric hospital sponsored by the Mennonite church, has recovered just 65% of the $533,000 it placed with New Era. The hospital collects between $350,000 and $400,000 in donations per year.
Meanwhile, for charities like Ephrata (Pa.) Community Hospital Foundation, which made money on the match, it's time to give back some of the profits.
"When the scheme collapsed, we were at that point about $103,000 ahead," says Bill Treible, assistant vice president for development. As part of New Era's bankruptcy settlement, the hospital paid back proceeds over a one-year period. It also amended its policy on matching grants, and in the future any program that requires a cash contribution will be considered an investment and referred to the board of director's finance committee.
Mercy Medical Airlift, a charitable air-ambulance service, made $70,000. But having qualified as a hardship case, the tiny Manassas, Va.-based charity had to return just 10% of the proceeds. Like many victims of the New Era fraud, Mercy Medical Airlift President Ed Boyer was pleased to see justice done. It was "a pretty dastardly deed," he says.
Through the bankruptcy settlement, about $61 million will be returned to charities bilked in the scam.
Lean cuisine.HealthPartners' Better Health Restaurant Challenge aims to cut healthcare costs by improving the health of the community.
The program encourages Twin Cities restaurants to provide low-fat menu items that also taste good. HealthPartners officials believe cutting the fat out of restaurant dining can lead to lower healthcare utilization down the road.
"Low fat, tastes great" has become the mantra for chefs as they prepare for the fourth annual event.
Patrons may order any low-fat menu item offered at competing restaurants during the October-long event and cast their votes for the tastiest ones. Winning restaurants receive good publicity, and $15,000 will be donated to the Minnesota chapter of the American Heart Association in the name of each winner. The number of restaurants participating has risen 46% since last year to 270.
Child's play.With only a shoe box, drawing material and a vivid imagination, 1,000 San Diego-area fourth-graders have been invited to give a children's perspective to creating healthcare environments. The project, called the "ShoeBox Adventure," was organized by the 10th Symposium on Healthcare Design.
The project's goal is to "help us understand the child's perspective and show how the arts can creatively make us aware of our ability to shape the built environment and our health," says Annette Ridenour, chairwoman of the symposium's local host committee and president of the design firm Aesthetics. "Feeling good, or getting better, means having a safe and healthy environment to live in."
Although the symposium has discussed the design of children's health facilities, this is the first time children have been involved in a healthcare design experience.
The symposium runs from Nov. 20 through Nov. 23. The projects will be on display and a special reception honoring them will be held Nov. 21 at the San Diego's Children Museum.
The San Diego Children's Hospital and Health Center, another supporter of the project, will compile a research report on the design ideas that will be released in early 1998.