Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.), who as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations has thrown a harsh spotlight on hospital industry billing practices and charity care, will soon join the healthcare industry.
Greenwood, 53, has taken over as president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a Washington trade association that represents hundreds of pharmaceu- tical marketers and human genome researchers, he says. He will leave Congress to take the job at the end of the year.
The current president of the BIO, Carl Feldbaum, is stepping down at year-end. Feldbaum, a Philadelphia native, gave Greenwood a $500 contribution in 2001, according to The Hill, an insider publication on Capitol Hill.
"While difficult (my decision) is consistent with the high ethical standards that have characterized my 24-year career in elective office," Greenwood wrote in a statement. He added that he would not have taken such a job with any other trade group. "I have come to comprehend the enormity of the transformation in human health that is possible with the advancement of cellular therapy, the development of biological treatments and the use of the now decoded human genome."
There was no word on his new salary.
What this will mean for the ongoing investigation of hospitals' track record of overbilling the uninsured remains to be seen. Greenwood was the prime mover behind the House oversight hearings, but his departure won't put an end to the robust scrutiny of the hospital industry.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) is still investigating whether not-for-profit hospitals provide enough extra community benefit to retain their tax exemptions, and the number of hospitals being sued over uninsured billing practices by Mississippi lawyer Richard Scruggs keeps rising.
Still earning, post retirement
Because Outliers has made it a duty to bring readers news of outsized paydays in the healthcare sector, we add the name of Leo Henikoff to the list.
Henikoff, who stepped down as CEO of Rush-Presbyterian- St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago at the end of 2001, was paid $4 million during Rush's fiscal 2003, according to a tax filing by the not-for-profit hospital, since renamed Rush University Medical Center, reports our sister publication, Crain's Chicago Business.
A Rush spokesman says the majority of the payment came from a supplemental retirement plan for Henikoff.
In fiscal 2003, which ended June 30 of that year, Rush reported earnings of $13.6 million on revenues of $1.68 billion, according to the tax filing.
Henikoff could not be reached for comment.
Talk about saving on generics
At a time when the new Medicare prescription-drug cards have been getting negative attention, here's a twist in the story: Medica Health Plans of Minnetonka, Minn., mistakenly gave free generic drugs to thousands of Minnesota retirees.
Retirees accepted the freebies for several days before a retired school librarian pointed out the error. Mary Simmons, 79, was skeptical when her pharmacist told her she didn't have to pay for her $100 worth of prescriptions, saying Medicare was giving her a $600 drug credit for low-income people.
"Well, I knew that wasn't right," she told the Associated Press. "I told them my income is too high to qualify. That's taxpayer money, and I thought it was outrageous."
The problem started when Medica gave a one-time offer to any of the 3,501 seniors enrolled in its Medicare-supplement insurance plan, Medica Prime Solution, who also had purchased a prescription-drug card. Starting July 1, Medica agreed to pay for those switching from 21 brand-name drugs to generics.
But with the retirees, a computer programming error mistakenly assured pharmacists that all 28,261 enrollees in Medica Prime Solution qualified for the free generic drugs.
"Nobody else complained," says Medica spokesman David Walsh. The company says that Simmons and others who received the free drugs may keep their windfall.
Life, the reality show
What's good for TV ratings-surgeons going through a nasty divorce or cheating on their spouses-isn't so good for hospitals that are having to work harder to recruit more students to the surgical field.
Television shows such as "ER," "Scrubs" and "Houston Medical," which depict surgeons as "jerks," ward off potentially great practitioners and reinforce negative attitudes about the field, says Susan Brundage, a trauma surgeon and teacher at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, Palo Alto, Calif. Brundage collaborated on a recent study published in the Journal of Surgical Research of 29 second-year medical students at the University of Texas-Houston School of Medicine.
"These TV shows only had a negative impact," Brundage says. Portrayals of surgeons as arrogant or obnoxious just reinforce negative stereotypes, she says, and are just "cartoon caricatures." Some students said they didn't have to be nice if they were going to be surgeons.
With new mandates limiting resident workweeks to 80 hours, hospitals will have to hire more surgeons to fill the gap. Brundage says, "They've always had a lot of worker bees, and now as things change, they're going to have to support more faculty."
Hospitals will have to hire more staff to accommodate changing values, such as a greater emphasis on having a personal life, she says. "From a physician side, it's a coverage issue. From the hospital side, it's a money issue."