During the recent fight on Capitol Hill over Medicare home health reimbursement rates, the industry and its representative groups have mounted one of the most aggressive lobbying efforts in recent memory, which has raised the issue to the top of many legislators' agendas.
But a recent attack by the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Home Care Association of America has even home health advocates saying the group may have gone too far.
In a memo to its members, the HCAA attacked House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chairman William Thomas (R-Calif.) as "one of the key reasons why healthcare in our country has been so terribly managed."
The HCAA also planned to picket Thomas' Bakersfield, Calif., office last week.
The memo from the HCAA to its members accuses Thomas of giving managed-care companies an easy ride at the expense of home health agencies.
"Because of his obnoxious leadership, we are no closer to fixing the HMO problem than we are to fixing the home-care problem. Rep. Thomas has ignored the negative consequences of HMOs thrust upon our nation's vulnerable senior citizens and upon our troubled Medicare Trust Funds. It is time he is dealt with."
Any bill to change the way Medicare reimburses home health agencies would almost certainly have to go through Thomas, who is the leading Republican health expert.
Oh yes, and Thomas was named last month by Washingtonian magazine as the meanest member of Congress based on a poll of congressional aides.
All this has some other home health advocates worried.
"(Thomas) is not a guy you want to piss off," says a home health lobbyist, who asked not to be identified.
On-line MHA. When Seton Hall University first proposed an on-line master's program in healthcare administration, Philip DiSalvio scoffed.
"I said no . . . this is crazy. I don't want my name associated with a correspondence school," he says.
After doing his homework, the academic director of graduate programs in healthcare administration had a change of heart. This fall, Seton Hall in South Orange, N.J., will fling open its virtual doors to a class of about 30 mid-level healthcare managers. It is thought to be the nation's first on-line MHA.
On-line education, DiSalvio learned, can be just as rigorous as any classroom-based program, and far more flexible. Students will log into chat rooms, view videos and file papers while at home, in the office or on the road. Links to World Wide Web sites, including modernhealthcare.com, will provide students and faculty with grist for discussion and analysis.
Seton Hall professors and other well-known healthcare administration faculty from across the nation will teach the 20-month, 39-credit program. Because contracts with guest faculty have yet to be signed, DiSalvio declined to reveal their identities.
Will the $25,000 on-line degree appeal to potential employers? "I think where the person gets the degree is very important," DiSalvio says. "If that university has a good reputation, I think that's very important."
More from the silly season. Another award recipient during the August news vacuum is Richard Coorsh, a spokesman who not only can spin, but do it with his foot firmly in his mouth.
Zero Population Growth, a pro-contraception lobby headed by former Rep. Peter Kostmayer (D-Pa.), has given Coorsh and the Health Insurance Association of America its "Barefoot in the Winter and Pregnant in the Summer" award for defending some insurers' coverage of the anti-impotence drug Viagra while excluding prescription contraception.
The group based the award on an article in the ABA Journal, a publication of the American Bar Association, in which Coorsh was quoted as justifying Viagra coverage because it cures a medical dysfunction. The journal quoted Coorsh as calling contraception, meanwhile, a "lifestyle drug."
"For this industry's shameless efforts to denigrate the importance of family planning and those who choose to plan their families responsibly, Zero Population Growth presents this award with all the rights and privileges thereto," the group says in a press release.
No stranger to darts from opposition interest groups, Coorsh said insurers offer contraceptive coverage whenever employers ask for it. Insurers do not make those decisions, he says. "This distinction has missed Mr. Kostmayer," Coorsh says.
What's next, Prosaic? A knockoff of the impotence drug Viagra has the Federal Trade Commission all hot and bothered.
The FTC earlier this month won a court order to temporarily halt the marketing of Vaegra, a product marketed as an impotence treatment that works in 68% to 94% of men.
But Vaegra, one of several treatments sold by David Brady and his Texas-based company American Urological Corp., has "little or no effect on impotence," the FTC alleges.
"Other than the names, there is no similarity between (Viagra and Vaegra)," the agency says in a statement.
The FTC alleges that Brady and his company marketed and sold a slew of products like Vaegra as supposed impotence cures by falsely creating the impression that the products have been developed by legitimate medical enterprises. Brady fabricated clinical data to make the products appear effective, the agency charges.