No proper shirt, no proper shoes-no proper job. That's the bottom line of a new CMS dress code the agency plans to enact after "complaints from a number of individuals at all levels" that employees at the agency's Baltimore headquarters didn't appear professional when they came to work.
Last month, the American Federation of Government Employees lost 25 of 26 contested labor issues with the CMS, including one that requires agency employees to dress more appropriately at the office. "They could have been going to Disneyland," CMS Acting Deputy Administrator Leslie Norwalk says of the way some people were dressed at the office. "No beach or bar wear" will be tolerated, Norwalk says, adding that one day a CMS employee with a badge on was seen wearing flip-flops and shorts.
"We're not asking for a whole lot but do want people to be taken seriously and dress like they're taken seriously," Norwalk tells Outliers.
Count Outliers among those glad to know that people roaming the halls of the CMS will no longer have to look at each other's toes.
Friends in high places
The politics of Medicare reform just keep on coming. We've seen dueling advertising campaigns about the merits of a prescription drug benefit and multiple investigations into alleged bribery and withheld cost estimates. Now comes information about how much companies that won approval to market Medicare-approved drug-discount cards have been spending to curry favor with the Bush administration.
A review of campaign finance statements by the Associated Press found hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to President Bush's re-election campaign from drug-card providers, along with $35 million spent on lobbying Capitol Hill and the administration in 2003. The Medicare modernization act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush late last year. The drug-card program will take effect in June.
Medco Specialty Pharmacy Services President Alan Lotvin helped throw a $100,000 fund-raiser for President Bush a few weeks after Medco won approval for its drug card. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson headlined the event.
Spokespeople for Thompson and Lotvin say the fund-raiser wasn't connected to the drug-card program, but a longtime Washington lobbyist says it is a textbook example of how big companies sow goodwill and win access when business is pending before the government.
"I think it is generally recognized in Washington that involvement in the campaign finance process certainly often can be very helpful to your legislative agenda," says Wright Andrews, a former president of the American League of Lobbyists.
Hospitals have been taking cues from the retail industry on how to treat patients like customers and be more attentive to business practices. So it's no surprise at least one wants to adopt a popular consumer payment option.
Scott & White, Temple, Texas, believes it's the first healthcare organization to sell gift cards for medical expenses, such as prescription drugs and copayments for surgery or doctor visits. The gift cards, issued by Chase Merchant Services, come in amounts from $25 to $500.
"They can use it anywhere they accept credit cards" in the 490-bed teaching hospital, main clinic and 15 regional clinics, says Tracy Brown, director of marketing and communications for the 550-physician, multispecialty group practice. "It's a gift from the heart."
Since rolling out the gift card program in early May, two dozen have been sold and a few already are popping up at payment counters.
The idea came from an employee participating in Scott & White's ideas program for cost-saving initiatives. While the gift cards may not save the hospital money, it is a good way to generate publicity with minimal startup costs. "Cash upfront for services means very little risk to the hospital," Brown says.
An American Hospital Association spokeswoman calls it "an innovative arrangement."
A major part of the Ohio state capital skyline changed in the blink of an eye last week as Columbus-based OhioHealth imploded the 16-story Baldwin Tower of its 422-bed Grant Medical Center to make room for a four-story, $59 million surgical and heart pavilion. If you sneezed, you could have missed the 12-second show.
"There were several loud booms, followed by a brief lag time before you saw anything happen," says OhioHealth spokeswoman Susan Vaughn in describing the dynamite implosion. "Then you started to see the top of the building come in like a collapsible telescope. All you could see after was a pile of rubble and a cloud of dust that disappeared in about 15 minutes. It was very cool, unbelievable to see. I'd heard about implosion groupies that travel the country to see them. Now I understand why."
Vaughn said more than 3,000 people, two-thirds of them off-duty OhioHealth employees, witnessed the implosion, which cost about $780,000, about the same price of a traditional demolition, which would have taken as long as eight weeks and required closing busy downtown streets.