It was a tad surprising that Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush stuck his neck out last week by signing controversial legislation that gives limited antitrust relief to physicians to negotiate contract terms with health plans.
After all, the Republican presidential candidate could have just let the legislation-which employers vehemently opposed-slide quietly into law without his imprimatur.
But during an election season (which this is, despite the presidential balloting 16 months hence), one doesn't have to look far for apparent motives. Turns out Bush can now count on firm support from the law's primary backer, the Texas Medical Association.
Not only did the association gush about Bush's taking "a significant stride toward the preservation of the patient-physician relationship" in a news release, it's also actively promoting his candidacy.
Last week a group called Physicians for Bush drummed up support at the American Medical Association House of Delegates annual meeting in Chicago by hosting a luncheon where Bush's top aides could hobnob with officials of a number of state medical societies.
TMA spokesman Ken Ortolon denied to Outliers any knowledge of Physicians for Bush last week, but TMA lobbyist Kim Ross said the state society had actually started the informal group.
Ross denied any quid pro quo, saying the antitrust legislation is "just one of many issues on which the governor has been supportive."
And that's not all... It certainly wasn't surprising that the American Association of Health Plans slammed the bill Bush signed, given that the association's Texas members will now have to bargain with organized medicine.
What was interesting was that AAHP President and Chief Executive Officer Karen Ignagni used to work for the public policy and employee benefits departments at the AFL-CIO, which has been actively courting health professionals.
While at the AFL-CIO, Ignagni helped unions negotiate contracts, particularly focusing on their health benefits.
Ignagni told MODERN HEALTHCARE that there was no conflict between her past advocacy role and her current agenda.
"The biggest problem is the Texas law completely flouts labor law," Ignagni says. "I don't know how anyone can call that a union or a bargaining unit. It's a license to collude."
Then and now. When the Institute for Diversity in Health Management held its first annual leadership conference in Chicago last week, one of its guest speakers was the head of a company famous for fast food and discrimination.
Denny's is the restaurant chain that five years ago paid more than $54 million to settle lawsuits filed by black customers for discriminatory and shoddy service.
Since then, the chain has spent millions to turn around its image and corporate culture, and the effort seems to be working.
Last year, Denny's parent company-Advantica-ranked No. 2 on Fortune magazine's list of the 50 best companies for Asians, blacks and Hispanics. Now at Denny's, the policy is simple: "If you discriminate, you are fired," says John Romandetti, Denny's president and chief executive officer.
A fly in the works. Change orders and clashes with bureaucracies often push hospital construction projects millions of dollars over budget. In the case of 373-bed Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, Calif., all it took was an insect.
The $470 million hospital opened in March, but not before it crossed the path of the Delhi Sands Flower Loving Fly. It's listed as an endangered species by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the need to preserve its habitat has driven developers to distraction in the burgeoning suburbs 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Arrowhead's planners were no exception.
Even though just a few Delhi Sands flies were spotted near the hospital's construction site, planners were forced to relocate the $470 million facility just north of its original 70-acre site, requiring a last-minute redesign of its helipads. The hospital also fenced off another eight acres for the fly to enjoy as a habitat and has hired a biologist to chart the activities of the insects, which emerge from their sand dune homes only one month a year to mate.
Hospital spokesman Dominick Nigro estimated that accommodating the fly will cost $3 million, but other sources say the actual cost will be closer to $6 million-a figure Nigro does not dispute.
Oops. The drkoop.com initial public offering made instant multimillionaires out of many, but not Mardian Blair. Or Richard Helppie.
Outliers reported earlier this month that both held millions of shares in the new Internet portal company (June 14, p. 62). But the shares next to their names in a IPO disclosure of board members' beneficial interest actually are redundant disclosures of the shares held by the organizations they head. Blair is president at Adventist Health System Sunbelt, Winter Park, Fla., which owns a 7% stake. Helppie is chairman and chief executive officer at Superior Consultant Holdings Corp., which has a 14% stock ownership.
Can you CT my 5-iron? In Kentucky, golfers who are serious about their swing are liable to wind up in the hospital.
Or to be more exact, in the Gait and Biomechanics Lab at Frazier Rehabilitation Center, one of Louisville, Ky.-based Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services' two inpatient rehab facilities. There, for $350, the "patients" get a full diagnostic workup, complete with computer imaging that can detect any defects in the movement of joints or limbs, and a 32-page report that explains what could be improved.
Frazier developed its Swings in Motion program to help people with disabilities or illnesses get back into the swing of things, but since it was launched last spring 61 of the 72 people who have had a full analysis were able-bodied.
Participants were ages 20 to 70. More than 80% of users returned for follow-up treatment at Frazier, including physical therapy sessions at $75 a pop and conditioning training, which costs $75 for four sessions during the golf season and $65 off-season.