Its logo may no longer be emblazoned on a hot-air balloon, but advertisements for Medicare continue to stir the political winds.
HHS' latest ad campaign, like the controversial blimp that flew over football games promoting the program's 800 number last year, has reignited criticism of the reform measure the ads are designed to explain. Last week, the General Accounting Office agreed to investigate the ads after a request from Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Frank Lautenburg (N.J.).
"The (Bush) administration is robbing the Medicare program to finance the Bush re-election campaign-and that is wrong," Kennedy says. "If there's anyone who thinks that the sole purpose of these ads isn't to promote President Bush's re-election, they must come from another planet. Probably from Mars."
Not the case, says HHS spokesman Bill Pierce. "This is a very cut-and-dried, by-the-book, cut-and-paste public service ad," Pierce says. "It's unfortunate that people who voted against the law are now trying to undermine our efforts to educate seniors."
The Medicare ads will cost about $22.7 million, including production costs and television, radio and print fees, Pierce says. Whether that money is financing Medicare education or presidential politics, well, Outliers will stay out of that one.
SSM Health Care, which operates 20 hospitals in the Midwest, is the latest provider to put its foot down on smokers by unveiling a campaign to eliminate the use of tobacco at its hospitals.
The system is targeting Nov. 18, the date of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout, for the beginning of a smoke-free environment. The initiative also includes eliminating designated outdoor locations where employees, patients and visitors currently light up.
Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has a ban on employees smoking on hospital grounds beginning May 1, but patients and visitors will still be able to light up, officials say.
Sister Mary Jean Ryan, SSM's president and chief executive officer, says the decision to institute the complete smoking ban was made because studies show that smoking cigarettes is responsible for one in five deaths in the country. "As a healthcare organization committed to the health and safety of its employees, patients and their families, it is our responsibility to take a leadership role on this major public health issue."
Ryan is creating a committee of smoking and nonsmoking staff to make recommendations on what resources to make available to the nicotine-addicted. "We must support employees, patients and visitors who smoke or use tobacco products," Ryan says.
Blaming the headhunter
It's not hard to understand why MEDex Regional Laboratories in Kingsport, Tenn., might want a $16,600 refund from its headhunter, but the company is asking for a lot more than that-almost $8.2 million more.
MEDex, which is owned by Wellmont Health System, Kingsport, filed for Chapter 11 protection last year in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Knoxville, Tenn., after the discovery of about $8.5 million in unauthorized debts, including $5 million in unauthorized bank loans. Former MEDex CEO Michael Ladd arranged those loans, according to his indictment, by forging the signatures of Wellmont CEO Eddie George and six physicians who used to hold a stake in MEDex.
MEDex is now suing the headhunter that found Ladd for $8.2 million. In a separate complaint in bankruptcy court, MEDex accuses Pershing, Yoakley & Associates of failing to discover or disclose that Ladd had a prior conviction for forgery within five years of his hiring as CFO in 2000. Ladd was promoted to CEO in 2001. The complaint contends that the fraud would have never happened because MEDex wouldn't have hired Ladd if it had known more about his past. Pershing, Yoakley has asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that neither its contract nor industry standards of care require a criminal background check. The case is pending.
As for Ladd, he's already pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., to one count of making false statements and reports for the purpose of influencing the actions of a federally insured bank, court records show. Ladd, 51, was sentenced to 41 months' imprisonment and five years' supervised release, and he agreed to pay nearly $2.1 million in restitution.
RNs and proud of it
Registered nurses in several states can show off their credentials and give back to the profession simply by driving around town.
A new license plate for registered nurses has been approved for Pennsylvania State Nurses Association members and affiliates, and the first 300 plates or so should be cropping up in the state in the next three to six months. South Carolina introduced the concept, and Maryland and Texas also are issuing nurse recognition plates.
"A nurse can feel good and proud driving around in her car," says Michele Campbell, the association's executive administrator. The benefit is twofold, Campbell says. The plates help identify registered nurses, and $10 of every $30 plate will go to nursing scholarships.
The plates won't hurt visibility for the association, either. According to Campbell, the state's department of transportation says the RN plate holders must be members of the PSNA or its 15 affiliate organizations. And the plates must have the PSNA logo.
"It's a feather in their cap," Campbell says. "And I think nurses should be recognized."