The comic strip character Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
Sometimes, Congress finds itself in the same position.
At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee held earlier this month, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) railed against the new home health interim payment system or, more specifically, against HCFA for implementing the IPS.
Bond said HCFA has "put literally hundreds of home health agencies out of business." He later said HCFA "took a hatchet and is lopping off heads."
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Ala.) jumped on the anti-HCFA bandwagon. "I have heard that HCFA calls me `Doctor' Stevens," said Stevens, who chairs the committee. "They are getting to be related to the IRS."
"That's an insult to the IRS," Bond replied.
The IPS and its planned successor, a home health prospective payment system, were enacted by Congress as part of last year's balanced-budget law, a fact apparently lost on Bond and Stevens.
The IPS is supposed to be a transition formula to allow HCFA the time to implement a PPS. The IPS was originally to take place next year, but HCFA announced recently that the year-2000 computer problem takes precedent, so the interim system won't be put in place until 2000 at the earliest.
Although Bond and Stevens seemed to have memory problems, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) clearly doesn't.
Mikulski reminded Bond that HCFA was "doing what we told them to do. Before you start calling them the IRS you should take a look and see if HCFA is the problem and not us."
On the same path. First there was the poison logo. Then the recycle symbol. Now, some central Ohio hospitals have developed an icon for clinical pathways.
The six-member Community Hospitals Network developed the symbol of three converging arrows to help staff readily identify patients who are following standardized guidelines for stroke, gall bladder surgery, heart disease, joint replacement and other routine procedures. The logo will go on stamps and stickers to be applied to patient records. Conceivably, it could also go on doors and patient wristbands.
"Clinical pathways sometimes have a negative connotation, as in cookbook medicine. But this symbol has a positive bent in that (it shows) we're all moving in the same direction," says Kathy Loufman, manager of special projects in nursing administration at Doctors Hospital in Columbus.
The logo is available to other hospitals free of charge. A bitmapped version is available by sending an e-mail request to [email protected] Or send a formatted, clean diskette and self-addressed stamped envelope to Community Hospitals Network, 9 Southwood Ave., Columbus, Ohio, 43207. A camera-ready copy is available by sending a self-addressed stamped 9-by-12-inch envelope to the same address.
Bill's pals.Among the 59 fat cats who gave $10,000 each to President Clinton's legal defense fund earlier this year were many Friends of Bill from the Hollywood power elite, such as Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Norman Lear and Barbra Streisand.
Beyond the glitterati, however, were two healthcare notables who gave that maximum donation to keep the commander in chief draped in legal armor.
The first is Alan Solomont, the former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a frequent guest at the White House during the "coffees" of 1994, 1995 and 1996. Solomont is also the former chief executive officer of ADS Group, a long-term-care company that was sold to Hackensack, N.J.-based Multicare Cos. in 1996.
The second $10,000 donor is less well known, unless you are a Democratic candidate in need of money. She is Beth Dozoretz, a senior vice president at FHC Health Systems in Norfolk, Va. Dozoretz's husband, Ronald, is a psychiatrist and chairman of FHC, which owns a string of psychiatric hospitals. It paid $206.5 million in June to Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. for Value Behavioral Health.
The Dozoretzes are major Democratic fund raisers and recently held a $25,000-a-head fund-raiser in their home in Washington's exclusive Georgetown neighborhood.
Beth Dozoretz also attended at least one of the infamous White House coffees.
Koop's back. C. Everett Koop, the former U.S. surgeon general, is giving it another go.
After the failure of his Time Life medical video series (Feb. 3, 1997), Koop has regrouped, and he can be found on a World Wide Web site called "Dr. Koop's Community," accessible at www.drkoop.com.
The product is offered by a start-up "personalized healthcare information" company called Empower Health Corp. Koop is board chairman of the Austin, Texas-based company, which also promotes electronic communication between providers and patients. The company got a recent, undisclosed cash infusion from Superior Consultant Holdings Co., a Detroit-based healthcare information technology consulting company.
At "Dr. Koop's Community," you can find health tips ranging from suggestions on how to quit smoking to what daily vitamins to take.
"The mission of the Web site is to provide people with additional healthcare information that might otherwise be difficult to obtain," says Guy MacNeill, a spokesman for Empower Health.
After being frustrated by his video series, Koop says he needed a medium that allowed advertising from such sources as pharmaceutical and home-care companies.
Other information at www.drkoop.com includes health news from Reuters and databases provided by University of Pennsylvania Health System.