A national TV advertisement for the Discover credit card has raised the ire of many hospitals around the nation, but it won't get yanked off the air.
The controversial ad, which began running in early December, opens with a young man being wheeled into an emergency room at the fictional Saint Sophie's Hospital. As the hospital staff prepares to treat the man, he holds up his Discover card. One of the staff swipes the card through a verification machine right in the room, and everyone stops what they're doing until the machine flashes the word "Approved."
The implication is that hospitals won't treat patients unless they can pay -- and that's simply not true, hospital groups say.
"I have heard from some of our members. They are offended by it, even though it's clearly a satire," says Richard Wade, the American Hospital Association's vice president for communications. "It offends most members who feel strongly about their obligation to care for everyone who comes through their doors."
A Discover official says the ad, which is one of four in Discover's national campaign, is intended to be outrageously funny, not outrageous.
"It's all designed to be way over-the-top," says Cathy Davis, Discover's vice president of brand management and new product development. "Obviously, you wouldn't not save someone's life because their card didn't go through. You wouldn't have a machine in the ER, of course. And we used a younger guy (as the patient) because we didn't want it to be realistic. We wanted it to be funny."
Members of the Catholic Health Association weren't laughing, however, says CHA spokesman Fred Caesar. Wade and Caesar said they were contemplating sending a letter of complaint to Discover, and Wade had already called the organization.
"We certainly don't want to overreact to anything," Wade says. "On the other hand, there will be some damage out there."
Sharp-tongued.Catholic rights groups lashed out after "60 Minutes" aired a segment on how women's reproductive health services can be lost in some partnership deals between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals.
A chief target of their attack was Frances Kissling, an outspoken critic of such deals and president of Washington-based Catholics for a Free Choice. Kissling was featured in the segment.
The American Life League, a Stafford, Va.-based pro-life group, called Kissling an "ex-Catholic" and a "heretic" in a press release it distributed after the Dec. 10 airing of the segment.
"First of all, they don't even know how to spell my name. How would they know what my status in the church would be?" says Kissling, who describes herself as Catholic. "Accuracy is not their strong point." The press release misspelled her first name.
Another group, the Catholic League, a New York-based Catholic civil rights group, in a news release called Kissling "the most notorious anti-Catholic bigot in the nation."
The sixth finger.For some people, having six fingers might be viewed as a liability. But that digital advantage might have saved Moses Champion's life and at the very least contributed to his safe return to his mother.
Moses, who was born with an extra finger on each hand, was abducted on Nov. 21, one day after his birth at 243-bed Hutzel Hospital in Detroit by a woman who befriended his mother, Mary Chapman.
"She told the mother they went to the same school together, and she (the mother) felt comfortable enough to leave her son with her while she went to the bathroom," Detroit police officer Kevin Jones said. "When she got out, they were both gone."
The family and police publicized the kidnapping and the 12 fingers. Jones said a friend of the abductor recognized the child and called police.
"That's exactly what gave it away," said Detroit police officer Claude Fox.
"After we ran the child's photo on the news and the information about the extra fingers, a family member or friend of the abductor saw the baby, noticed the unusual trait and immediately called the police."
Monique Coleman, 19, of Detroit was arrested and charged with kidnapping.
Hutzel spokeswoman Teri deMatas said the abduction developed a heightened awareness about safety precautions at the hospital.
"We're making sure all employees and visitors have passes and credentials and all moms know who and who not to give their babies to," deMatas said, adding: "All of those measures were in place prior to the event, but now we're even firmer on them."
Defending the government.Hospitals and investors have complained about foot-dragging by the Internal Revenue Service when it comes to completing its probe of acquisition financing.
But an IRS official speaking at an investor conference in December said healthcare providers are partly to blame for the debacle.
Mark Scott, chief of the agency's tax-exempt bond unit, said he heard that an issuer "shopped" for a favorable prior legal opinion on acquisition financing, which was used to consolidate the debt of merging health systems while preserving their tax-exempt status. Further, he noted that some deals closed after there was general knowledge that the IRS had started its probe. The agency suspects that the deals constituted illegal refundings, which cost the government tax revenue.
Scott's suggestion that hospitals obtain private-letter rulings from the IRS before embarking on questionable bond deals drew protest from an audience member, who said that takes longer than the six-month window legally allowed for refinancing after a merger. "If you really understand the way the business community works, deals have to get done," the audience member said. "They can't wait."
Defending the agency, Scott said the average time to obtain a private-letter ruling has dropped to four months. He added that hospitals could request rulings before they merge.
He also retorted: "Maybe that (culture of rushing deals) should change." Good point. Maybe if some systems hadn't been in a rush to merge, the industry wouldn't be stuck with so many ill-advised deals.