The jury-selection questions in the big Medicare fraud trial in Kansas City, Kan., would have given anyone pause, even healthcare executives.
The 14 jurors and alternates for the kickback trial, now in its sixth week, were drawn from a large pool in eastern Kansas. The defendants are three former executives of Baptist Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., the owners of some nursing homes and two attorneys.
Potential jurors were asked whether they had any resentment toward doctors, hospitals or nursing homes, whether they thought that lawyers were "a bunch of bums," whether osteopaths were inferior to M.D.s.
Did they have "good experiences with the staff and doctors" at hospitals where they'd been treated?
Prospective jurors also were asked whether they thought Medicare fraud was a victimless crime. "Is there anybody on the jury panel who likes to pay more for something than it's worth?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway.
They were asked to describe all their interactions with hospitals that might be similar to issues mentioned in court. "How many feel that hospital administrators don't care about their patients?" asked James Wyrsch, lawyer for defendant Dan Anderson, Baptist's former chief executive officer.
"Does anybody disagree with the proposition that a hospital has to be run like a business?" asked Charles German, attorney for Baptist Chief Operating Officer Dennis McClatchey. "Does anybody feel any discomfort being asked to second-guess the business judgments made by a hospital?"
No one had any discomfort with that at all. Or so they said.
Live, from HIMSS, it's... When he was president, George Bush had a rough time with the national press corps, and he didn't hesitate to return the favor on the speech circuit once he left the White House. But during a speech to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society last week, he humorously declared himself past that stage.
"I've joined Press Bashers Anonymous," he said. "I have been clean and sober for about six months now, and I am trying to avoid a relapse."
To show how far he has come in his recovery, he underlined his resolve by launching into a familiar refrain from a certain famous Bush impersonator: "As Dana Carvey would say, 'wouldn't be prudent. Not gonna do it.' "
The name game. Alternative Living Services, one of the largest assisted-living companies, is forking out $900,000 to change its name to Alterra, a moniker that should become official at a shareholders meeting in May.
And that's not including the fee it paid Minneapolis-based Nametag International to conduct focus groups and come up with the list of 16 names from which Alterra was chosen. Management says Alterra reflects both its past ("alt" from "alternative") as well as a solid "terra," or "foundation," on which to build a future.
Symbolism aside, competitors Assisted Living Concepts, ARV Assisted Living and Capital Senior Living will breathe a sigh of relief that there's one less company with a name that sounds like theirs.
Quotable. "Because I'm going to buy a Humvee."-Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), responding to a question about how his Medicare reform plan could pass when it asks more affluent seniors to pay more for their Medicare coverage. Breaux was alluding to former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), whose car once was mobbed by seniors angered by his support for a surcharge on higher-income Medicare beneficiaries to expand Medicare-covered benefits.
Interactive HMO. Given the antipathy many physicians feel toward managed care, maybe it's time to try indoctrinating a new generation of doctors.
That seems to be the tack taken by Tufts Managed Care Institute and Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, two partners marketing an educational compact disc titled "Introducing Residents to the Principles of Managed Care via CD-ROM." The interactive curriculum aid includes four topics: "Managed Care Basics," "Resource Allocation," "New Dimensions in Quality Management" and "Practicing Managed Care."
If only it offered instruction on the managed-care topics doctors are more familiar with, such as "How to Avoid Nuking Your Managed Care Partners."
Oh-my-aching-back.com. Itching to cash in on Internet mania? If you're kicking yourself for missing out on Amazon.com's initial public offering, just wait. The field of Internet-based companies-including those specializing in healthcare-is bound to expand.
Salomon Smith Barney's annual healthcare conference at New York's ritzy Plaza Hotel last month featured seven private purveyors of diagnosis-specific information and on-line services packaged especially for consumers and providers. For example, Abaton.com, a Minneapolis-based company, aims to simplify physicians' lives by automating their clinical transactions with healthcare payers and providers.
HealthCentral.com, based in Berkeley, Calif., serves up a whopping dose of medical information, featuring content from radio talk-show host Dean Edell, M.D.
Physicians' Online, which can be reached at www.po.com, provides a gateway to medical news, databases and symposia. The Tarrytown, N.Y.-based company touts itself as "the world's largest Internet community of doctors."
Investors apparently are hungry to know more about the coming wave of healthcare Internet stocks. Outliers would have swiped a few handouts, but the shelves set aside for company literature were virtually picked clean of Internet propaganda.