Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.) are expected to introduce legislation this week that will allow early retirees and displaced workers over 55 to buy Medicare coverage. That proposal is contained in President Clinton's budget plan for federal fiscal 1999. Under the proposal, 390,000 early retirees and 18,000 displaced workers are expected to buy Medicare coverage by 2003. The extra cost to the government would be about $1.4 billion from 1999 to 2003.
* In its final report, a commission on healthcare quality proposed that the government create a permanent public advisory council to track compliance with patient protection measures and establish goals for quality improvement. The final report of the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry also recommends that a separate panel be charged with developing a plan for measuring healthcare quality and reporting it (See related story, p. 6). The report was presented to President Clinton Friday.
* Wholesale prices for acute-care hospital services dropped 0.1% in February, compared with a 0.5% increase in January, according to the U.S. Labor Department's Producer Price Index released Friday. For the 12 months ended in February, hospital prices rose 0.7%. The PPI measures changes in net revenues per episode of care.
* Health Management Associates, Naples, Fla., signed a definitive agreement Friday to acquire 91-bed, two-hospital Regional Healthcare Health System, Brooksville, Fla., for undisclosed terms. The deal is expected to be completed May 1. It would be HMA's third acquisition this year and bring to 32 the number of hospitals it operates.
* Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. might have to buy former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard Scott's house in Nashville, which is up for sale at $4.5 million. Scott was ousted in July 1997 after a federal raid on Columbia facilities. He received a $9.9 million severance package that included a provision to buy his house if he moved more than 90 miles from Nashville. Scott reportedly is considering moving to the New York area.
* Foundation Health Systems, a Woodland Hills, Calif.-based managed-care company, late last week appointed Steven Erwin executive vice president and chief financial officer. Erwin replaces Jeffrey Elder, who resigned in December (See related story, p. 76). Erwin was previously executive vice president and CFO of U.S. Bancorp.
* Lois Capps, a former school nurse, was elected to fill the unexpired term of her late husband, Rep. Walter Capps (D.-Calif.), by a 55% vote of her district. That brings to three the number of nurses in the House of Representatives. Capps is a member of the American Nurses Association/California, created after the California Nurses Association broke off from the ANA in 1995. The ANA political action committee supported her campaign, and she received help from many nurses in her campaign headquarters.
* Rising premiums are fostering concerns among employers that quality of care is eroding, according to the annual Watson Wyatt/Washington Business Group on Health value in healthcare study released last week. The study said 42% of employers believe cost pressures are hurting the quality of care, compared with 33% a year ago and 28% in 1996. In a separate poll of providers, 54% said quality is being compromised by efforts to reduce costs. Employers said they are considering a variety of options to cope with cost pressures, such as changing providers, cost-shifting to employees or modifying benefits. Watson Wyatt/WBGH polled a total of 527 firms, 70% of which had more than 1,000 employees. A total of 1,286 providers and healthcare firms also were polled.
* San Diego-based Sharp HealthCare has completed its acquisition of Mesa Vista Hospital and the Vista Pacifica clinic, inpatient and outpatient facilities that specialize in mental health and chemical dependency treatments. The organizations began negotiations last summer (Aug. 18, 1997, p. 4). The 150-bed hospital and clinic is adjacent to Sharp Memorial Hospital in the San Diego suburbs. Under terms of the deal, Sharp will assume $7.7 million in long-term debt held by the hospital's former operating organization, Vista Hill Foundation. Sharp has renamed the facility Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.