When providers, including the American Hospital Association, appeared before the House Small Business Committee last week to complain about paperwork demanded of them by HCFA, nobody was there to offer a response from the besieged federal agency.
Committee Chairman Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) charged that providers are "drowning under a torrent of paperwork." Bruce Cummings, CEO of 14-bed Blue Hill (Maine) Memorial Hospital, says HCFA's regulatory process is bereft of "fairness, due process and common sense." William Mahood, M.D., who represented the American Medical Association at the hearing, called Medicare regulations "needlessly complex and overburdensome."
But HCFA wasn't permitted to respond. In fact, the agency wasn't even invited to the hearing, a spokesman says.
But if the committee had been interested in HCFA's point of view, members wouldn't have had to look far. In the hearing room right next door to the Small Business Committee, acting HCFA Chief Michael McMullan was testifying before the House Appropriations Committee's healthcare subcommittee.
Small Business Committee officials did not respond to phone calls asking why HCFA wasn't invited.
Ironically, at the appropriations hearing, McMullan answered many of the same complaints posed by providers at the hearing next door. Maybe Small Business Committee members decided they wanted to just read that transcript, rather than hear from the agency itself.
Paying back HealthSouth. Not one to resist an opportunity to brag, HealthSouth Corp. Chairman and CEO Richard Scrushy claims American taxpayers owe his company a debt of gratitude.
Speaking last week before an audience of bankers, investors and analysts, Scrushy said his company's below-average cost structure allowed Medicare to set low rates under its new prospective payment system for rehabilitation hospitals. The new pricing, expected to start Oct. 1, is expected to save Medicare $1.5 billion over seven years compared with current cost-based reimbursement.
Noting that Birmingham, Ala.-based HealthSouth owns about 70% of the nation's rehabilitation hospitals and roughly one quarter of rehabilitation beds, Scrushy says his company "played a major role" in prospective pricing. Payments are expected to average $11,500 per case, but Scrushy says the figure could have been closer to $18,000 or $19,000 if it hadn't been for HealthSouth slashing administrative overhead and supply costs of the facilities it acquired.
"One day somebody's going to put that in writing and say, `Thank you, HealthSouth,' " Scrushy says. He added that he's mentioned this to some members of Congress, who were not immediately available for comment last week. Scrushy spoke in Rancho Mirage, Calif., at a healthcare industry seminar sponsored by Standard & Poor's rating agency.
Yet apparently, what's good for the nation also is good for HealthSouth. Scrushy acknowledged that despite what he characterized as low rates, his own company expected to increase its profits under the PPS.
A memorable meeting. A select few members of the senior editing and publishing staff of the Journal of the American Medical Association got more of an international education than they had bargained for last month during an international meeting held in Istanbul, Turkey, Outliers has learned.
Several JAMA editors and executives and members of their families were staying at the five-star luxury hotel where 13 pro-Chechen gunmen held 120 people hostage for nearly 12 hours before letting them go April 23. Two American Medical Association spokesmen refused to comment on the meeting, and several JAMA executives who attended the meeting did not return telephone calls for interviews.
A hotel employee at the Istanbul Swissotel, however, confirmed that Catherine DeAngelis, M.D., editor of JAMA, and Robert Musacchio, JAMA's senior vice president of publishing and business services, were among those staying at the hotel during the time the hostage situation developed. It is unclear how many from the JAMA group were among those held during the brief siege. In the end, the gunmen surrendered and released the 120 hostages, 40 of whom were Americans, ending the standoff without harming the guests.
George Lundberg, M.D., the former editor of JAMA who was fired two years ago, says that for several years, JAMA's senior editing and publishing staff executives have met annually with the journal's international publishers in various countries. In past years, he says, the little-publicized meetings have been held in such locales as Paris, Rome and Chicago.
"This was done for economies of travel and to produce synergies involving multiple publishers in multiple countries, learning from each other," he says.