It's almost inconceivable that a major vendor would allow customers to accumulate a multimillion-dollar backlog of accounts receivable and then help pull state purse strings on the customers' behalf.
But hard times are making for some unlikely bedfellows in the New York City market. Vendors are going to bat for their nonpaying customers. And healthcare providers, instead of dodging the nonpayment problem, are wielding it like an ax in the battle to stave off $2.1 billion in pending state Medicaid payment reductions.
The vendor is a $21 billion company that provides services and supplies to hospitals in the New York metropolitan area. The company, which is owed $10 million by "downstate" healthcare providers, recently sent a telegram to New York Gov. George Pataki requesting a meeting to discuss his plans for correcting the payment problem.
This much is known, thanks to Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, who disclosed the vendor's actions but not its name in a recent speech to members. Lee Perlman, the GNYHA's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the association is protecting the vendor's identity because news of the massive receivable could undermine the company's stock.
So far, there's been no response from the governor's office, Perlman says. But the GNYHA is hedging its bets. The association is asking dozens of businesses whose livelihood depends on a healthy New York healthcare economy to join the fray.
Although John Salek, a management consultant specializing in collection issues, hasn't heard of such alliances before, he thinks it's a smart strategy. "This vendor is going to continue to do business with the New York City hospitals for better or for worse, and if their pleas to the state government can help increase the flow of cash, it will benefit the company as well."
Oppose health reform, or else! In a not-so-veiled threat of what employers might do to their health insurance plans should the federal government enact HMO regulations, the National Association of Manufacturers is calling on its 14,000 members to get their employees involved in opposing such legislation.
The association's board of directors recently passed a resolution opposing a provision in some bills that have been introduced in Congress that would allow enrollees to sue health plans for benefit denials. The board said employees will suffer the most, as a survey conducted by the association showed that 40% of its members would drop coverage if they could be sued as a result of providing health insurance to their employees.
"Manufacturers don't want to be forced to make the Hobson's choice of offering important health benefits to their employees and leaving themselves open to potentially business-killing lawsuits, or discontinuing coverage for workers," says Patrick Cleary, the group's vice president for human resources policy.
No word yet on whether they'll also be asking their employees to oppose lunch hours, the minimum wage or the 40-hour workweek.
Futuristic title. How do you know when a meeting about the future of healthcare is going to be a bit pedantic?
Answer: When the meeting's organizers need a "synthesizer"-also known as an interpreter-to help attendees make sense of it all.
Healthcare futurist Ian Morrison served in that role at last week's annual summit of the Health Forum held in San Francisco. The summit, which prides itself on being a heavy-hitter of futurist thought, was a crowning jewel of the former Healthcare Forum, which merged with the American Hospital Association last year.
"I'm here as kind of the Cliffs Notes of the meeting," Morrison quipped to the crowd of 1,000 attendees.
Shortened commute. Three years after he took the job as director of Los Angeles County Health Services, Mark Finucane is actually moving to Los Angeles.
Finucane has been the ultimate commuter since he took the job in 1996 after serving as health services director for Contra Costa County near San Francisco. He works in L.A. during the week, then hops a Friday night flight back to the Bay Area, where his family lives in the East Bay suburb of Walnut Creek. Finucane first spent weeknights in a condo in South Pasadena, where he has purchased a home.
Finucane waited so long to move because he was concerned about disrupting the schooling of his two daughters. But because one daughter is graduating elementary school and the other middle school, "we could make the move, since they would be switching schools anyway," he says.
An inside look. Potential employees, journalists, consumer advocates and others seeking the inside scoop have a new way to snoop on large HMOs and other healthcare companies: a new World Wide Web site that promises insider information on companies such as Aetna U.S. Healthcare, Apria Healthcare Group, Cardinal Health, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., Humana, Kaiser Permanente and Oxford Health Plans, among others.
The site, www.VaultReports.com, claims to be the leading provider of inside information on what it's like to work at various U.S. companies. And it does provide plenty of quotes from thousands of confidential interviews with healthcare company employees, many of them seemingly young and ambitious.
An anonymous worker at Norwalk, Conn.-based Oxford, for example, notes that "Oxford is a very different place and culture than when I joined. Lots of old-timers are leaving, and new management and consultants are coming in."
Oxford's entry also includes observations on the company's attempts to rebuild itself after spilling hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink in late 1997 and early '98, and on resulting changes in its corporate culture.