Leon C. Hirsch, chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Surgical Corp., used a meeting with Wall Street analysts recently to fire a shot across the bow of Premier, whose sole-source contracts with Johnson & Johnson had contributed to recent declines in U.S. Surgical's core wound-closure and surgical-instrument businesses.
The meeting had been billed to trumpet U.S. Surgical's best sales quarter in recent years, but Hirsch couldn't resist bashing the alliance that made the sales increase so notable.
In essence, he said that hospitals tied to Premier's lockstep buying approach had lost their way, letting their chief financial officers outmuscle their medical staffs.
"Hospitals fall into two categories," Hirsch declared, "Those run by bean counters . . . and those where the doctors have some backbone."
Now U.S. Surgical is targeting physicians with spines to undo the damage from its contracting setbacks.
"We're talking to doctors to switch from Premier or say they won't do it," Hirsch said. "And it's working."
Hirsch predicted that as many as 11 New York-area hospitals now buying through Premier would commit to buy U.S. Surgical this month. "We're fighting back, and we're starting to see some results," he said.
Norwalk, Conn.-based U.S. Surgical announced sales of $295 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, up 5% from the year-ago period.
D.C. confidential.How and when providers can disclose a patient's medical data is a hot topic in Washington. But a recent hearing on the issue showed just how hard it can be to keep anything secret inside the Beltway.
Testifying before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told a riveting story about a constituent who had breast cancer. Snowe has been a champion of legislation barring insurers from using genetic information to cancel insurance coverage.
According to the written version of the story released by Snowe, the constituent had a history of breast cancer in her family. She also had three daughters and was afraid that if the insurance company found out about her history it would deny them coverage.
"I want to have (a breast cancer test) done but because of the insurance risk for my daughters I don't dare," the statement said. It then added that the constituent "asked Snowe to keep her identity confidential in order to protect her daughters."
But when giving the oral version of the testimony before the committee, dozens of reporters and an overflow crowd that packed the hearing room, Snowe proceeded to announce the woman's name.
Maybe any legislation relating to the confidentiality of patient medical records should include not divulging information to members of Congress.
Naked contracts.Should a physician be able to negotiate a private contract with a Medicare patient if that patient is only wearing his or her birthday suit?
Under a tongue-in-cheek bill introduced last week by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), such transactions would be banned.
Stark's humor was sparked by a move by congressional Republicans to change current Medicare rules to allow physicians to contract directly with Medicare patients.
The GOP legislators, backed chiefly by the American Medical Association, want to bring market forces into the Medicare system and give seniors more choice.
Opponents, including Stark, say the GOP bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will lead to bilking of seniors and cause adverse selection in the Medicare program.
Stark believes the relative negotiating positions of physicians and seniors are inherently unequal. To highlight that, Stark introduced a bill titled "No Private Contracts to be Negotiated when the Patient is Buck Naked Act of 1997."
Along with abolishing such contracts, the Stark bill would also prohibit contracts to be made:
"When a patient is wearing "one of those short, flimsy little hospital gowns that don't close in the back."
During a "digital rectal examination."
Anytime "a patient is using a bedpan or in the middle of the administration of an enema."
There are several other prohibited situations too graphic even for Outliers.
There is no word on how much money the bill would save the Medicare program.
God's health plan?Attending religious services may improve the health and psychological well-being of older adults, two Yale University studies of more than 2,800 elderly people show.
The first report found a lower frequency of unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and heavy drinking, among elderly people who participated in religious services.
The second report study found that religious involvement over a 12-year period was a good predictor of better functional ability later in life.
"Even after we took out the other variables, such as friendship, leisure activities and social support, there was still evidence that attendance at religious services had a positive impact on health," said Ellen Idler, co-author of the first study.
Calling Dr. Huxtable.It's right there on the promotional brochure: "The driving force in managed care." That's how the National Managed Health Care Congress describes itself in enticing attendance for its $1,195 per person annual conference, this time in Atlanta next April.
You'd expect to pay top dollar for the top minds specializing in that arena. But Bill Cosby? And for an extra $25 per attendee?
Yes, the latest incarnation of "I'm not a doctor, but I (used to) play one on TV" is the featured speaker at the place to be enlightened about managed-care operational efficiency, information technology, and enrollee care and feeding.
Healthcare conferences always are looking for a big draw, but they had at least a lame argument for booking the likes of Colin Powell, James Carville or other policy-oriented speakers in years past. Not this year, evidently.
Quotable."If you think of any aspect of HMO that's annoying, we're working on improving it."-Wendy Kuran, PacifiCare's director of plan provider services in California, referring to the plan's recent initiatives to streamline specialty referrals and field member complaints in one business day.