How did the American Association of Retired Persons, as well as a group of senators, celebrate Medicare's 36th anniversary last week? With birthday cake, of course.
Trying to make a point about Medicare's current benefits, the AARP distributed birthday cakes to every member of Congress, minus one piece, to symbolize the lack of prescription drug coverage.
"The missing slice also tells lawmakers that the high cost of prescription drugs is slicing too deeply into family budgets, savings and retirement security," said AARP President Tess Canja.
That was the cue that the senators needed. Two days later, the Senate group, led by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), James Jeffords (I-Vt.) and John Breaux (D-La.) proffered a complete cake as they released a Medicare reform framework that includes prescription-drug coverage.
"Our tripartisan coalition is serving up the whole cake," Grassley said. "We are filling in the missing piece."
Le docs, they rave, n'est-ce pas? Hospitals often are looking to boost their admissions, but what happened on a recent Saturday night wasn't what the Sainte Anne psychiatric hospital in Paris had in mind.
A small party for 30 hospital interns was crashed by 350 youths who set up a full-fledged rave party, complete with blaring dance music and reported sales of cigarettes and controlled substances, according to the Associated Press. Patients were sleeping near the cafeteria where the party took place, but they were not disturbed, the hospital told the AP. Sainte Anne's officials have filed a complaint with police to start an investigation of the incident.
Sainte Anne's officials may want to do more to discourage their employees from talking to the press, however. The French newspaper Liberation quoted a nurse as saying of the psychiatric patients: "They weren't far away, but they are so stuffed with drugs, they heard nothing."
A crying shame. It turns out that rave parties are hardly the most serious thing that mental health providers would rather not disclose.
A study of the anonymous responses of 567 physician members of the Michigan Psychiatric Society reveals that four of every 10 psychiatrists would consider self-prescribing to treat depression, largely to keep to a minimum any record of their conditions. The reason? They believe public awareness of their treatment would create a stigma and hurt their careers.
Psychiatrists don't want mental illness to be an issue in their lives, says Richard Balon of Wayne State University in Detroit.
Third time's the charm. Joyce Lee Hickman, the owner of a Texas third-party administration billing company, appears to have a fraud habit, to say the least.
Last week a Houston federal jury convicted Hickman, 45, on 32 counts of healthcare fraud, but that's far from the whole story. She ran sham clinics, often billing for people long dead, and was paid $9 million based on $25 million in fraudulent Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance claims. But that's not all.
The real story is that Hickman was originally indicted in April 2000 for many of the charges she was convicted on, but she continued to engage in the same illegal activity following the first indictment, evidence introduced at trial showed. In May 2001 the second indictment alleging additional healthcare fraud was returned by a Houston grand jury, and Hickman was arrested again and her bond revoked.
A seemingly penitent Hickman convinced the federal judge that she would commit no further crimes and was again released pending trial. However, she not only submitted more false claims to Cigna HealthCare after her release but also may have forged the signatures of a dead physician on prescriptions for hydrocodone and codeine for herself, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Houston. After Hickman's conviction, the judge ordered her jailed immediately.
It's hard to find the words. In the face of a nationwide workforce shortage, Pennsylvania's hospitals and nursing organizations are asking nurses if they would still choose the same career.
Led by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the groups are sponsoring an essay contest, asking nurses to complete this sentence: "If I had to do it all over again, I'd still be a nurse today because . . . "
The sponsors are hoping they will gather recollections of memorable moments with patients, families and colleagues to help sell the profession. "We're just trying to drum up stories as to why nursing is such a great career," says Pat Bricker, a spokeswoman for the hospital group.
Since the announcement went out to more than 250 hospitals early last month, fewer than a dozen essays have come in, but even those few are testimonials to nursing as a career, Bricker says. The association is hoping for more entries by the Sept. 1 deadline.