Payments to Iowa specialists draw HHS scrutiny

From Modern Physician

HHS’ inspector general’s office subpoenaed two health plans for information about payments to specialists at 281-bed Covenant Medical Center, Waterloo, Iowa.

Covenant Medical is part of three-hospital Covenant Health System. Chris Hyers, the system’s vice president of business development, said the hospital had not received an investigative subpoena from the inspector general’s office and declined to comment on the insurers’ subpoenas because officials had not seen them. A spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office confirmed that subpoenas were issued to John Deere Health, Moline, Ill., and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Des Moines, Iowa, but declined further comment.

Earlier this year, local news reports questioned whether Covenant Medical’s payments to a gastroenterologist and two orthopedic surgeons exceeded fair market value. The hospital paid a total of more than $5 million in compensation to the three physicians in both 2002 and 2003, while providing $1.9 million in charity care each year, according to IRS filings. Hyers said the compensation reflected how hard the physicians worked and a shortage of specialists in the area.

John Deere Health confirmed it had received a subpoena but declined to comment further. Wellmark declined to coment at all.

Illinois Governor Signs Med Mal Bill

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation on August 25 limiting damages in malpractice suits in the state.

Under the law, sponsored by state congressmen James Clayborne, Jr., and Dan Reitz, a jury is limited to awarding plantiffs $500,000 for personal pain and suffering in cases against physicians. The cap is $1 million in cases against hospitals.

The law also contains provisions that allow for greater scrutiny of malpractice insurance rates

More on Hattieburg

Everyone else is focusing on New Orleans, I’m following Hattiesburg, MS. From The Hattiesburg American:

The failure of a generator at Forrest General Hospital early today forced the shifting of patients to other parts of the hospital.

The hospital on Wednesday began transferring some of its patients to hospitals in Jackson and Mobile, Ala., as its water and food supply dwindled.

“We are in a really critical mode,” said Millie Swan, hospital spokeswoman. “I hope people realize the seriousness of this. It’s times like these that you learn the lesson of how important water really is.”

“On Tuesday, nearly 500 people came through the emergency room,” Swan said. On a normal day, the hospital usually treats about 200 in the ER.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived at Forrest General Wednesday afternoon to help triage patients.

Mader said Wesley is treating about 200 patients in its emergency room each day.

“Those people who are non-trauma will have to wait,” she said.

Both hospital officials said there has also been a lot of people stopping by the hospital, looking for a place to stay.

“We are not a shelter,” Swan said. “Please only come to the hospital if you have an emergency.”

“If you do not need immediate medical attention, please don’t look to us as a place to sit,” Mader said. “We are working diligently to treat our patients.”

Left Without Being Seen

From the New Bern Sun Journal

The U.S. General Accounting Office reported recently that as many as 7 percent of emergency departments nationally have “leave without being seen” rates higher than 5 percent. According to the Annals of Emergency Medicine, some emergency departments have reported rates as high as 15 percent.


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