A top Democratic strategist is telling Democratic candidates that they need to pick a fight with Republicans over Medicare this year as a way to reverse a trend that has seniors increasingly turning Republican.
Celinda Lake, president of the Democratic polling firm Lake Sosin Snell Perry, and Ed Goeas, president of the Tarrance Group Group, a GOP polling firm, recently completed their 10th pre-election survey, and the results contain bad news for Democrats in the healthcare arena.
Seniors, who once favored Democrats heavily when it came to health issues, now believe Republicans will do a better job on Medicare than President Clinton and congressional Democrats.
"The Democratic decline among seniors is very, very notable," Lake says.
What's more, the study showed Clinton's proposal to open the Medicare program to early retirees is not the answer. Goeas says seniors are "very suspect of bringing more people into Medicare. Their focus is on making sure they get their benefits."
All that means you can expect Medicare to become an issue this election year.
"In short, Democrats need a fight on Social Security and Medicare to shore up seniors and remind them of the Democratic party's traditional position of protecting seniors in retirement," Lake says.
Makes you feel good about the political process, doesn't it?
Celebrating 99 years. With the American Hospital Association toasting its 100th anniversary this year, its founding fathers must be scratching their heads in confusion. After all, their first official meeting was in 1899.
Apparently there was some confusion about the group's true founding date when AHA Executive Secretary William Walsh, M.D., designed the group's official seal in 1927. The seal bears the date 1898, although the Association of Hospital Superintendents, the group that later became the AHA, held its first meeting Sept. 12-13, 1899.
The Aug. 1, 1958, issue of the AHA's Hospitals magazine said the hospital superintendents met to discuss forming the organization in 1898. However, in its Jan. 20 coverage of the centennial, the magazine cites 1899 as the founding year.
Is the groundwork laid by the founding fathers before the inaugural meeting an acceptable founding "event," or is the AHA breaking out the champagne a year early to keep its official seal from looking silly? Either way, the AHA is stuck with 1898 on its seal and probably won't change it. So party on.
The hospital adventure. Maybe the AHA didn't make such a mental leap, but Outliers believes it's worth noting that Maureen McGovern, the headline performer for the association's upcoming centennial (OK, 99-year) gala, is perhaps most famous for singing the theme of a movie about a sinking ship.
The number of comparisons that can be made between the current state of the hospital industry and "The Poseidon Adventure"-which featured McGovern's song "The Morning After"-are limitless. For instance:
The passengers on board the ocean-liner Poseidon were frolicking without a care in the world until a freak tidal wave capsized the ship. (Managed care?)
Thousands boarded the Poseidon, and few survived. (Overcapacity?)
The survivors alerted their rescuers by banging on the bottom of the foundered ship's hull. (Lobbying?)
And finally, when is there not a "morning after" at hospitals? When insurance companies refuse to pay for any inpatient stays.
Different worlds. That stunning new deal the producers of the hit show "ER" cut with NBC is almost hard to fathom, but the Wall Street Journal came up with an interesting comparison.
At about $13 million for each hourlong installment, three shows equal $39 million, more than the annual budget of the kind of urban emergency room the show dramatizes each week. The ER at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in New York has an annual budget of $30 million, but it takes care of 90,000 people each year.
But Jamaica Hospital President David Rosen tells Outliers he isn't bitter about the price disparity. "I don't really worry about what NBC paid for `ER,' " he says. "As a consumer, I think it was a good deal for NBC."
When it comes to medicine, entertainment is no comparison. "They really are two different worlds. I can't be resentful at all," Rosen says. "We in the healthcare industry have to do whatever it takes to put out a product that consumers want and consumers need, and the cost is what the cost is and consumers have to pay for that."
Bury my lead, please. Sometimes a company has so much news to tell, it has trouble figuring out what to go public with first. Well, that's one explanation anyway.
Take the case of WellCare Management Corp., a Kingston, N.Y.-based HMO operator. Earlier this month, it issued a soporific press release headlined "WellCare reprices executive common stock options . . . ," to explain in excruciating detail how the company had overhauled compensation for senior management in conjunction with a $20 million investment in the company managed by Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., New York.
Pretty typical dull press release fare, but Outliers was undaunted. After all, late on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, we caught the company's stealthy announcement that it had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in New York for documents about its business activities (Sept. 8, 1997, p. 40).
Lo and behold, just before the coma-inducing fine print about "forward-looking statements" that virtually all public companies tack onto their releases these days, WellCare also said it also had agreed to pay a $91,000 government penalty after admitting it had undercharged commercial customers in 1995 and 1996 in violation of state rules. Under its deal with N.Y. regulators, WellCare could wind up paying $66,000 more, if it fails to use "good-faith efforts" to recover the shortfall calculated under community pricing regulations.
Quotable. "Our right hand doesn't know what our far right hand is doing."-A House Republican committee staff aide, describing the disagreement among the congressional GOP rank and file over patient protection legislation.