Board members benefiting financially from the company they serve is a pretty straight forward conflict of interest, an ethical no-no for most companies.
But apparently not for Aetna U.S. Healthcare, the largest health insurer in the country.
At a time when Aetna has been struggling financially and trying hard to repair a reputation for penny-pinching among physicians, word comes that board member Leonard Abramson, 67, and members of his family have been making millions off the health insurer.
Of course, Abramson is not your ordinary board member: He's the guy who founded and was a major shareholder of U.S. Healthcare, which Aetna bought in 1996. He made a cool $900 million from that deal.
Since then, apparently as part of that sale, the company has paid Abramson $3 million a year for "consulting." What's more, the Associated Press reported last week, Aetna has paid his two daughters and a son-in-law more than $18 million since the sale for various consulting services, according to financial statements Aetna has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Abramson, re-elected to the board in April, decided last week to step down. He denied any conflict existed. He will get his $3 mil a year through 2001.
Aetna has said there's no conflict of interest because they've reported the Abramson deals.
Some experts disagree. "Just because they disclose the relationship doesn't make it right," said Graef "Bud" Crystal, a San Diego-based executive compensation expert.
It seems that Aetna is the company that keeps giving--at least to Leonard Abramson and his family.
10 Rules of Medicare. It would not be unfair to describe Larry Oday as a curmudgeon. But at least he's a comical curmudgeon.
Oday, a crusty 52-year-old healthcare attorney with Vinson & Elkins, wowed the 100 people attending a Premier hospital alliance meeting on Medicare's new outpatient prospective payment system earlier this month. Oday left 'em laughing by ending his PPS talk with a recitation of his "10 Iron Rules of Medicare."
As one highly amused hospital executive suggested to a MODERN HEALTHCARE reporter who was covering the event, "This would be great for Outliers. It would be something you would cut out and stick on your bulletin board."
Get your scissors ready:
1. Just because it has a code, that doesn't mean it's covered.
2. Just because it's covered, that doesn't mean you can bill for it.
3. Just because you can bill for it, that doesn't mean you'll get paid for it.
4. Just because you've been paid for it, that doesn't mean you can keep the money.
5. Just because you've been paid once, that doesn't mean you'll get paid again.
6. Just because you got paid in one state doesn't mean you'll get paid in another state.
7. You'll never know all the rules.
8. Not knowing the rules can land you in the slammer.
9. There's always some schlemiel who doesn't get the message.
10. There's always some schmendrik (jerk) who gets the message and ignores it.
The eyes have it. With a flash of light, Renay Poirier could see again.
Doctors aren't sure how Poirier's eyesight inexplicably returned.
But on the morning of May 23 as the 40-year-old physical therapist assistant from Eau Claire, Wis., stood in front of a window in his home preparing for work, Poirier felt a pain in his head, saw a flash of light--and all of a sudden he could see his wife, Connie, and daughters Alea, 12, and Kara, 9, again after almost 10 years of blindness.
Kara was only 2 months old when Poirier was hurt in October 1990 in an electrical explosion at a research plant where he was a maintenance technician.
After the accident Poirier could only see shapes and movement up to a foot away.
As Poirier began to adjust to being blind, he decided to become a physical therapist and enrolled at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. He received his degree from the college in 1997 and began working at 261-bed Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.
On June 8 Poirier appeared on NBC's "Today" show and explained how working with patients at the hospital helped him regain some perspective. "After I started working (at Sacred Heart) I began to feel important again," he said. "It's self-worth."
During his blindness Poirier also rediscovered his Catholic faith and attributes his mysterious recovery to God. "There must be more that He wants me to do," Poirier said on "Today."
Now that's what you call some good news.
New name. Less shame. And one more thing about that modestly renamed hospital chain, HCA-The Healthcare Co.: It's getting out of the "Hall of Shame."
In 1997, Boston-based corporate watchdog INFACT inducted HCA into its "Influence-Peddling Hall of Shame" for its use of political connections to sway state and national healthcare policy.
"Since then, the corporation has taken many steps in the right direction," said INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey at HCA's shareholder's meeting last month in Nashville. Mulvey mentioned in particular how HCA has made no soft money political contributions in the 2000 elections.
No soft money? What's the world coming to?