Can humor cure pain? The cable network Comedy Central thinks so. The network has given a $75,000 research grant to the University of California at Los Angeles Jonsson Cancer Center so it can study how to most effectively use humor to reduce pain and to prevent and treat disease.
The five-year study, called Rx Laughter, is the brainchild of Sherry Dunay Hilber, a former entertainment industry executive who got UCLA and Comedy Central involved.
Comedy Central already is active in using jokes to make people feel better. In 1998, the network partnered with its affiliates to start a program called "Comedy Rx." The program sends comics to hospitals and organizes fund-raisers to benefit hospitals and other healthcare groups.
Covering the uninsured . . . President Clinton and congressional leaders recently resuscitated the issue of uninsured Americans with their respective proposals to extend healthcare coverage, but some hospitals want to make sure the matter doesn't drop off the radar screen during the all-important election season.
Hospital associations in New Mexico and nine other states with high rates of uninsured residents are planning to make lack of coverage a high-profile issue this year. The states are trying to raise funds from philanthropic and research foundations to hold a summit on the uninsured in September in Albuquerque. They'll invite candidates for national and state offices.
"I would hope that the presidential candidates would speak to what they could do (about the problem), and the gubernatorial candidates would speak to what they're trying to do-because all of the states are trying to do something," says Maureen Boshier, president and chief executive officer of the New Mexico Hospitals and Health Systems Association. The association recently won a $150,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to craft a plan of action for the state.
The 10 states have a March 7 deadline to commit to hotel space for the event, she says. Other states participating are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and Texas.
. . . but not with my money. Many of the attendees at last week's American Hospital Association meeting in Washington support coverage for the uninsured-just as long as they don't have to pay for it.
One speaker, Rep. William Thomas (R-Calif.), asked audience members how many of them had employer-sponsored coverage. Almost everyone raised his or her hands.
Thomas then asked attendees to keep their hands raised if they would be willing to pay more for their coverage so other people could get coverage. Many people lowered their hands. That's surprising, since the AHA supports expanded coverage for the uninsured.
Peasants with pitchforks? Speaking of the AHA meeting, who would think that normally reserved hospital executives could be roused with revolutionary rhetoric? That's what happened at an AHA rally last week calling for further rollbacks in Medicare and Medicaid payment reductions enacted under the Balanced Budget Act.
Gathering in the caucus room of a congressional office building next to the Capitol, at least 200 hospital executives were primed by the theme music to "Monday Night Football" (minus the smashing-helmets video and "Are You Ready for Some Football?" sung by Hank Williams Jr.).
AHA President Richard Davidson took to the podium to lead the flag-waving execs in the chant of "BBA-Fix it Today!" before introducing five members of Congress. The members, not surprisingly, also criticized the budget law's cuts and urged the executives to continue their lobbying push, which in 1999 increased Medicare and Medicaid spending by $16 billion over the next five years.
"It was a nice down payment," Davidson told the gathering. "Sorry. We appreciate it, but it's not enough, and it's affecting us back home."
"Last year, we didn't cross the finish line," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). "This year, we're going to cross the finish line."
Will Alex Trebeck host this game, too? Here's your chance. And you don't even have to know the capital of Burkina Faso to play.
HCFA, commanded by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is giving healthcare providers, patients and anyone else a chance to stop complaining about healthcare cost and quality and become part of the solution. The agency announced a new suggestion rewards system in the Nov. 26, 1999, Federal Register.
Sam Della Vecchia, a HCFA insurance specialist who helped write the regulation, says the agency is getting calls and written suggestions offering ways to save money and improve efficiency.
The rewards, which are based on projected savings to the program from implementing suggested ideas, range from $100 to $25,000.
"It does seem like there is some interest," says Della Vecchia, who pointed out that suggestions are evaluated by experts in particular areas. Who said capitalism can't work in the public sector?
Quotable. "Come on, Dr. Frist. Even Harry and Louise supported this expansion of coverage."-White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, at the American Hospital Association's annual meeting last week. He was responding to comments by Sen. William Frist (R-Tenn.) criticizing the president's proposal to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program. Frist is also a physician.