The Greater New York Hospital Association has scooped up former New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a paid adviser and honorary member of its 30-member board of governors.
Moynihan is the GNYHA's first-ever honorary board member and also the first who is not a hospital executive. Nevertheless, he has stellar credentials; he has held several Cabinet-level posts, served as ambassador to India and U.S. representative to the United Nations, and represented New York state for 24 years in the Senate before retiring this year. He was succeeded by former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"He's just a wealth of information, and I think our board members will listen in awe to his advice," says Kenneth Raske, president of the GNYHA. "The fact of the matter is, he loves to be professorial and any opportunity he has to advise or teach, he jumps at. He's an amazing, amazing person."
Officials were quick to point out that Moynihan will not act in a lobbying capacity but instead will be "a goodwill ambassador and adviser." His duties will include attending four board meetings per year and chairing educational forums on graduate medical education issues. He will be paid in his capacity as an adviser, not as an honorary board member.
"He has been one of the foremost advocates for teaching hospitals," says Mary Johnson, a GNYHA spokeswoman.
Moynihan is the second former senator to go on the GNYHA payroll. The trade group hired former Republican Sen. Alfonse D'Amato as an adviser and consultant beginning in early 1999-soon after he lost his seat to Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer. After waiting the requisite one year for former elected officials to lobby the body where they once served, D'Amato registered and is now lobbying on behalf of the GNYHA. D'Amato is involved in several high-priority issues, including indirect medical education funding and Medicare, Medicaid and workforce shortage issues, Johnson says.
Tight-lipped. A federal judge in Texas gave a tongue-lashing to East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, which he found had wrongly silenced employees by requiring them to sign confidentiality agreements based on a bogus law.
According to a Dallas Morning News account, some 5,000 current and former employees going back to 1996 signed the agreements, which cited a nonexistent "Information Practices Act of 1977."
Asked by U.S. District Judge Howell Cobb to explain the policy, officials of the Tyler-based system said it was not drafted or reviewed by the hospital's legal department, and the system's lawyers could not explain the legal citation other than to cite a similar-sounding statute from another state.
In an 18-page memo, Cobb said the document "does not withstand even moderate scrutiny," and is so broad that it "would seem to cover even the most casual conversation between employees and/or patients."
The policy was challenged in court by an attorney representing two former employees of the hospital system who are plaintiffs in a sexual harassment case against the system. The plaintiffs' lawyer said current and former employees refused to cooperate in the case, citing the confidentiality agreement.
Sex-change benefits. San Francisco, a city that symbolizes liberalism and sexual openness, is about to extend its health insurance to cover sex-change operations for municipal employees.
Mayor Willie Brown and the city's board of supervisors are expected to sign the measure within the next few weeks. It will extend up to $50,000 in benefits to city workers who want to change their sex.
The benefits would become available July 1 and cover male-to-female surgery, which costs about $37,000, as well as female-to-male surgery, which runs about $77,000. Hormones and other treatments would be covered.
San Francisco would become the only governmental body in the nation to provide such benefits. The state of Minnesota used to offer them, but the program was phased out in 1998. The issue was discussed in Oregon, but a commission ruled against it in 1999.
San Francisco's transgender community-which includes cross-dressers, transvestites, transsexuals and those born with characteristics of both sexes-numbers about 15,000, says Susan Stryker, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society of Northern California.
"I think it's really politically important to do this," Stryker says. "Transgender rights are often considered as a joke: `What are those wacky San Franciscans going to do next?' "
Quotable. "Dwight Eisenhower once said, `You don't lead people by hitting them over the head.' Clearly, he had never had firsthand dealings with HCFA."
-D. Ted Lewers, M.D., chairman of the American Medical Association's board of directors addressing a crowd of about 1,000 doctors and medical students at the group's national leadership conference in Washington last week.