Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western New York dismissed Thomas Harnett, the president and CEO of seven years who was credited with turning around the once money-losing health plan. The insurer, which has 780,000 members in upstate New York and annual revenue of $1.3 billion, has been exploring a conversion to a publicly traded company. Officials said Harnett's departure had nothing to do with the organization's strategic direction. Executive Vice Presidents Cheryl Howe and James Cardone will run the company until a new CEO is hired. Harnett earned $825,000 in 2001.
HHS funds demo project
HHS will fund a three-year demonstration project to offer disease management services to Medicare patients with chronic conditions, such as congestive heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Participants will receive capitated payments for each beneficiary enrolled. In a news release, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which will oversee the demonstration project, said it expects programs to promote patient-centered, multidisciplinary care; use information technology to support evidence-based care; and focus on improving care processes and patient outcomes. The project is the latest in HHS' push to improve healthcare quality, including a forthcoming requirement that hospitals administer patient satisfaction surveys and publish the results (Feb. 10, p.8).
Tenet keeps accreditation
Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., said all 19 Tenet hospitals subjected to recent surprise inspections by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations will maintain their accredited status, although the JCAHO imposed some conditions. The JCAHO launched the inspections after the disclosure of a federal investigation into allegations that two physicians at Tenet's 188-bed Redding (Calif.) Medical Center had performed unnecessary services. The JCAHO said each of the 19 hospitals now carries "accreditation with requirements for improvement." The inspected hospitals are in California, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Calif. premiums lower
Annual healthcare premiums in California in 2002 were about 8% lower than the national average: $2,845 for individuals and $7,471 for families, compared with $3,060 for individuals and $7,954 for families nationally, according to a study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Some 54% of Californians are enrolled in HMOs, compared with 26% nationally. But California employers continued to shift more healthcare costs onto workers, with 61% of large firms increasing the amount workers paid for coverage in 2002, nearly double the number that predicted they would do so.
MedCath opens 10th hospital
MedCath Corp., Charlotte, N.C., opened its 10th cardiac-care hospital, the 58-bed Louisiana Heart Hospital in St. Tammany Parish, La. MedCath has three additional hospitals under development in Lafayette, La., Milwaukee and San Antonio.
Mental health bill proposed
Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) introduced legislation in the Senate that would prevent insurers from setting more restrictive limits for mental health coverage than for other illnesses. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Jim Ramstad
(R-Minn.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.). Also last week, Reps. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Jim Turner (D-Texas) introduced legislation in the House that would establish cost-based reimbursement for hospitals with
50 beds or fewer and enhance the critical-access hospital program. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate later this month. Meanwhile, Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) reintroduced legislation in the House to create a national system for tracking medical errors.