Lest there be any fear that they take the wrong side in some close congressional election battles, the American Hospital Association found itself giving money to both sides.
According to the most recent Federal Election Commission data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics, the AHA's political action committee gave to both Senate candidates in close races in Florida, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.
In Florida's open Senate seat, the AHA's PAC gave $5,000 to both victorious Democrat Bill Nelson and defeated Republican Bill McCollum.
In Michigan, it gave $9,000 to defeated Republican incumbent Spencer Abraham and $500 to victorious Democrat Debbie Stabenow.
In the race for New York's open seat, the AHA gave $5,000 to victorious Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, $7,500 to defeated Republican Rick Lazio, and an additional $3,000 to Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who dropped out.
And in Pennsylvania, it gave $5,750 to victorious Republican Rick Santorum, the incumbent, and $1,000 to defeated Democrat Ron Klink.
Meanwhile, the Federation of American Hospitals gave to both sides only in Florida, choosing to give to Abraham in Michigan, Lazio in New York and Santorum in Pennsylvania.
The eye of HCFA. When companies like Amazon.com track where you go on the Web, it may make you mad but at least it makes sense--they want to know what you look at on the Internet so they can better target their marketing.
But when HCFA does the same thing, the case is less clear.
Last month the General Accounting Office, Congress' watchdog arm, cited HCFA--among several other federal agencies--for secretly monitoring the Web surfing habits of people who visit their sites. This despite a directive from the White House Office of Management and Budget last spring prohibiting the practice.
Commenting on the topic in a September letter to the GAO, the budget office said that "executive branch agencies have implemented the (directive) with great success," and that those agencies "have now adopted privacy policies at the most important Web pages on their sites."
HCFA declined to comment on the reason it monitored site visitors, and officials wouldn't say whether the practice has ceased.
Pricey shot. Prices for the popular flu vaccine are rising, and it's enough to make the American Medical Association sick.
The AMA is taking to task some distributors of the influenza vaccine that have, according to the 290,000-member physician group, "significantly raised their prices during the temporary delay in fulfilling orders for the vaccine."
"The AMA strongly condemns this practice," says Richard Corlin, M.D., the AMA's president-elect, in a statement. "Medical price gouging is unethical and threatens the health of those who need the vaccination most."
Distributors expect to deliver about 75 million doses of the vaccine to physicians and other providers by the end of December, but only one-third of the doses has been distributed to date, the AMA says.
Bonus plan. Chiropractor John Strom, the owner or co-owner of eight northeast Ohio chiropractic clinics, figured out a way to give his employees raises that didn't have to come out of his pocket.
Strom, 39, a resident of Stow, Ohio, last month pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and mail fraud for a kickback scheme that funded an unusual payroll benefit program. Between 1991 and 1998 Strom allegedly conspired with a mobile medical laboratory and diagnostic service to provide medically unnecessary diagnostic tests to his patients. Strom received kickbacks from the companies in exchange for patient referrals, disguising the kickbacks as lease agreements. In 1995 he sent a letter to the mobile test providers demanding an increase in his "rental" charge to $200 per hour. He later instituted a bonus program at his clinics that allowed the chiropractors he'd hired to manage his clinics to negotiate their own "lease agreements."
Strom faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and $1.25 million in penalties.
While kickbacks break new ground in the employee incentive program industry, Outliers still prefers a 401(k) plan.
Dedicated voters. Allison and Paul Fortier of Hudson, N.H., didn't want to miss voting in the closest election in a generation. So they didn't let a little thing like having a baby stand in the way.
At 4: 30 a.m. on Election Day, Allison's water broke and she telephoned her obstetrician, who told her to rest and call back at 7 a.m. When the Fortiers called back, the doctor advised them to come to his office at 9 a.m.
"We thought we probably had time to vote and didn't want to miss this election," says Paul Fortier, 31, who manages his family's dry-cleaning business. "Once we got to the hospital, who knew how long it would take? Actually going to vote helped keep her distracted."
They arrived at the polls, voted and left in under five minutes, heading straight for Elliot Hospital in nearby Manchester, where five hours later their son, Alexander, was born, a month premature but healthy.
The couple, which leans conservative, voted for Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who carried the state. Alexander has not yet declared his party affiliation.