When Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) saw the report on the compensation of top executives at investor-owned HMOs released last week by the consumer group Families USA, he was miffed.
The report showed that many of the HMO executives made seven-figure salaries, led by Oxford Health Plans Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Wiggins, who received more than $29 million in compensation in 1997. On top of that, Wiggins received nearly $83 million in stock options.
And according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wiggins, who resigned after Oxford's stock went into free fall last year, also received $9 million in severance following his resignation.
A dentist by trade, Norwood has been an outspoken critic of managed care. He is the sponsor of the leading managed-care regulation bill in the House, the Patient Access to Responsible Care Act. Managed-care and employer groups have formed the Health Benefits Coalition to defeat the measure. The coalition has vowed to spend $1 million to defeat the measure.
Norwood says that while the salaries are high, he is really upset that the groups are not spending more to stifle his legislation. "Surely they can spend more than $1 million to defeat my bill," he says. "All these executives could throw a little money in, and they could spend at least $2 million."
Says Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who has a managed-care regulation bill of his own: "Just wait, they will."
One affair and a wedding. When Democratic leaders unveiled their managed-care regulation package last week they trumpeted the fact that both the American Medical Association and the AFL-CIO supported the measure. Dingell called it a "historic marriage" between labor and physicians.
But it isn't all that historic. The two lobbying heavyweights had a brief affair during the debate over the Clinton healthcare reform plan. Both groups, at least for a while, supported an "employer mandate," a requirement that all employers provide healthcare coverage.
AMA officials were criticized for being so cozy with the Democratic-leaning labor and eventually, the AMA formally backed off its support of the mandate.
Out of touch. Some nursing organizations were caught in the crossfire between science and alternative medicine last week in a modern-day version of the Emperor's New Clothes.
Emily Rosa, 11, is the youngest person ever to have her research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Her fourth-grade science project, featured in the April 1 issue, purported to debunk the practice of therapeutic touch, whose practitioners claim to be able to treat medical conditions by using their hands to manipulate a "human energy field."
Twenty-one practitioners were tested. With their hands hidden behind a screen, in 280 tries they correctly identified which of their hands was closest to an investigator's hand only 44% of the time. A score of about 50% would have been expected by chance.
The subjects apparently agreed to be tested because the researcher was a child, then only 9 years old.
The study immediately was attacked by practitioners of therapeutic touch, who called it flawed. Emily's mother, Linda Rosa, is a registered nurse who has opposed the practice, and the AMA is known for protecting the interests of traditional medicine.
Yet despite a lack of solid scientific backing, some hospitals, nursing schools and professional nursing organizations have adopted the practice.
According to the authors, therapeutic touch is used by nurses in at least 80 hospitals, and proponents say at least 43,000 healthcare professionals have been trained to do it.
The JAMA research singles out, among others, the National League for Nursing and the American Nurses Association for promoting therapeutic touch.
The NLN, which accredits nursing schools, acknowledges it has sold books and videotapes on the practice and that some of its past leaders may have advocated it. A spokesman says it has no official stand on therapeutic touch, although it "vigorously encourages" scientific research.
The ANA acknowledges holding workshops on therapeutic touch at national conventions, most recently in 1996. One of its past presidents, Lucille Joel, has written articles defending the practice.
ANA spokeswoman Sara Goer says it would "examine the current literature" before holding any more educational programs on the topic.
Darla's gift. Fortune magazine calls her "the toughest babe in business."
Richard Rainwater knows her as his wife.
And the University of South Carolina bows to her as the biggest donor in the school's history.
For her $25 million in generosity, healthcare investor Darla Moore soon will see her name emblazoned across the front of the university's business school, now known as the Darla Moore School of Business.
Moore's husband is Fort Worth, Texas, billionaire investor Richard Rainwater. With her help, his portfolio has grown to more than $1.5 billion. Before joining Rainwater Inc. as chief executive officer four years ago, Moore was a managing director of Chase Bank in New York, where she specialized in financing for bankrupt companies.
Moore grew up in Lake City, S.C., and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from University of South Carolina in Columbia.
"We found that there are two other schools that have been named for women, but they were much smaller," says Andrea Retzky, a spokeswoman for Moore. Also, the other schools were named for "widows who gave from their husband's wealth. She's earned it," Retzky says.
Moore, 43, is plenty involved in business. Just ask Richard Scott. Moore is a former member of the board of directors of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and claims to have played a key role in the ouster of Scott as its president, chairman and CEO in July 1997.
She left the board in 1996 because of conflicts with her and Rainwater's other healthcare interests, but she says she was a conduit between Scott and board members who wanted him out. Moore and Rainwater still own about 8 million Columbia shares worth about $250 million.