Want to turn $400,000 into several million?
It's easy, at least in our nation's capital. Here's how:
Step one: Start a big capital project. Step two: Hire a big-time Washington lobbying firm. Step three: Collect the cash.
A recently released report on lobbying expenses for 1997 by the congressional watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics found that four hospital systems spent more than $400,000 on lobbying.
Hermann Hospital in Houston, the 624-bed flagship of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, spent $460,000, according to the report. It paid most of that to Cassidy & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm, to secure funding for an ambulatory-care center for disadvantaged patients. It was successful to the tune of $3 million.
Also hiring Cassidy was 1,027-bed Montefiore Medical Center in New York. It spent $400,000 to get federal funding for a new children's hospital. A spokeswoman declined to say how much the hospital received for its trouble.
Baystate Health System in Springfield, Mass., says it has been incorrectly included on the list of big spenders and that its lobbying expenses were actually much lower than the $420,000 reported, though a spokesman would not say how much lower. But a review of filings with Congress show the system did give Cassidy more than $350,000 in 1997.
Officials at another hospital system on the list, the now bankrupt Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation, which spent $400,000, could not be reached for comment.
Two giant steps for HIMSS.
With the year-2000 computer bug baffling providers, it's especially fitting that the man who coined the phrase "Houston, we've got a problem" should be the closing speaker at the biggest healthcare information gathering of the year.
In fact, Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell is just one of two speakers at the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference next month in Atlanta to have risen to a great height only to fall back to earth the hard way.
Former President George Bush is the keynote speaker.
Reintroduced to a generation in a dramatic portrayal by Tom Hanks, Lovell will speak on overcoming technological challenges, which should be appropriate for a group that has identified Y2K as the biggest challenge facing its members.
Bush, whose surprise in 1992 at finding out there were bar codes on grocery items did not exactly brand him as the technology president, will concentrate on the future of domestic and foreign policy.
The popular HIMSS event, which last year attracted nearly 20,000 attendees, continues a trend of inviting marquee speakers for a computer crowd. Past notables included Bush's right-hand military man Colin Powell, former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley and poet Maya Angelou.
It should be no surprise that provider groups have been effusive in their praise of likely new House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
As chairman of the House GOP's healthcare task force, the suburban Chicago legislator has helped to tailor his party's health policy, including the patient-protection legislation that passed the House last summer.
And Hastert has reaped what he has sown, as healthcare-related donations have filled his campaign coffers. In running for re-election in November, Hastert raised about $1 million. Of that, more than $143,000 came from health professionals, insurers, hospitals and nursing homes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Hospitals and nursing homes, meanwhile, were 12th in the Hastert contribution sweepstakes.
The American Medical Association political action committee tied for the fourth-biggest single contributor to Hastert's re-election campaign, at $10,000. The American Health Care Association, the biggest nursing-home trade group, was ninth at $8,000, and the American Hospital Association was in a tie for 34th with a $4,000 contribution.
Fraud knows no borders.
Whistleblowers are calling them the Thelma and Louise of healthcare fraud.
Two Canadian women and their Florida-based healthcare enterprises are the target of a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed in late November. The suit, filed in March 1998, charges Elizabeth Hutton, 48, and Annette Martino, 53, with Medicare fraud. The two women are also notorious in their native Ontario, where they allegedly started their fraud spree.
Before moving to St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1994, Hutton and Martino built up a multimillion-dollar empire around nursing homes by bilking Canada's health plan, two whistleblowers claim. The accusers, Henry Harlow and James Garvey, also charged Hutton and Martino with creating a series of interlocking businesses to perpetrate "incestuous healthcare services and billing schemes."
Some of the Canadians' companies in Florida have filed for bankruptcy, just like their predecessor companies in Canada, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported in a Dec. 18 article.
Looking for trivia to throw around at parties?
Take a gander at a new report from the Illinois Department of Public Health on 1997 vital statistics for the state.
When it comes to babies: 180,649 were born; the youngest father was 13, the oldest 81; the youngest mother was 11, the oldest 52; the smallest live birth was 5 ounces, while the largest was 13 pounds, 13 ounces.
The facts on death: 102,404 people passed away; the most deaths occurred on Jan. 9, when 363 people expired; the oldest man to die was 108, the oldest woman 113.