Physicians embroiled in financial disputes with their corporate partners seem to be missing a key lesson: Don't count on someone else to watch your money.
The latest group of doctors to learn this lesson the hard way is a Sun City, Ariz.-based independent practice association that filed a notice last September terminating its seven-year relationship with North American Medical Management, the IPA arm of Nashville, Tenn.-based PhyCor. In late March, NAMM responded with a $2.8 million suit against Sun State Physicians IPA.
In a news release, Sun State cautions doctors to "be sure of the company you choose."
Good advice. But the real lesson comes from Sun State's contention that when it signed up with NAMM in 1992, "the doctors thought they had found a means to . . . focus on the business of providing quality medical care while someone else worried about the details of contract management." Sound familiar? There's a long history in many fields of people losing their wallets because they handed them over to someone else. Remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing into his 40s because his agent had blown all his money? Remember Billy Joel going on endless tours to make up $90 million his manager lost?
For the record, it has not been proved in court that NAMM engaged in any wrongdoing at Sun City. But we wonder if even those doctors signed to management agreements ought to keep at least one eye on the financial details.
Fight-fire-with-fire department. Unintentionally ironic news release headline of the month, courtesy of financier George Soros' Open Society Institute: "Soros to Announce $15 Million to Combat Influence of Money in Medicine." Or at least the influence of money not provided by Soros himself.
Actually, the release details an organization Soros founded to fight the excesses of marketplace-based medicine, as well as allow medical students and young physicians an opportunity to "express the altruism . . . that brought them into medicine."
Lawsuits of the month. In which thin skin and the excruciating pain of dental hygiene take center stage:
Humana and me. Corporate gadfly Michael Moore is at it again, and this time he has HMOs in his sights.
Moore, creator of the acclaimed documentary Roger and Me and television seriesTV Nation, is back with a new half-hour program that attacks corporate America in Moore's trademark in-your-face style. The Awful Truth airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
In the April 11 premier episode, Moore and Christopher Donahue, a 34-year-old diabetic who was denied a combined kidney and pancreas transplant by Humana, visit the insurer's Louisville, Ky., headquarters. There, Moore passes out invitations to Donahue's funeral -- which Moore says is imminent without the denied transplant -- and badgers Humana spokesman Greg Donaldson.
Donahue, sporting a T-shirt proclaiming, "I joined Humana and all I got was this lousy T-shirt," even asks Donaldson to help him select a casket. After Donaldson escorts the pair and their camera crew out of the building, Moore conducts a mock funeral, complete with hearse and casket, in the plaza outside.
One week after Moore visited Humana, the insurer gave the go-ahead for the transplant. Donaldson says the decision had nothing to do with Moore's visit. He says it was the result of a new companywide policy allowing the experimental surgery, adding that Medicare still does not cover it.