So says NerdWallet. They’ve factored in our poor score on the American Fitness Index (ranked 47th out of the top 50 largest metro areas), our relatively low percentage of people with health insurance (77.4%), the number of doctors per capita, and pollution levels to determine that Dallas is the fourth-least-healthy metro area in the United States.
The three healthiest on their list: Boston, Seattle, and Portland. So feel free to see some sort of left-wing conspiracy theory behind the rankings.
The Dallas Morning News has portrayed him relentlessly as a greedy, high-living, double-dealing fraudster. (Right after conceding he did lots of admirable work.) But for some reason a number of Dallasites haven’t bought into The News’ characterization of former UT Southwestern Medical Center president Dr. Kern Wildenthal. Among them, it seems: Children’s Medical Center. The country’s fifth-largest pediatric hospital has just appointed Wildenthal president of its foundation and executive vice president of Children’s Medical Center.
A story (paywall) in today’s Morning News hit close to home for me. It’s about the goofy billing practices of hospitals. The gist:
Some Dallas hospitals charge five times as much as hospitals just a few miles away for the same treatments, federal data released Wednesday shows [sic]. In 2011, Medical City Dallas Hospital charged $430,219 for Medicare respiratory patients using a ventilator for more than four days. Baylor Medical Center in Irving, meanwhile, charged an average of $82,185 for the same treatment. … [F]ederal health officials [say] the data shows [sic] disparities that have no adequate explanation.
“There is no relationship we see in the variation in charges and the quality of care that’s being provided,” said Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “We want to shine a much brighter light on practices that don’t seem to make sense to us from a consumer standpoint.”
I read the story with interest because yesterday I got a $6,935.29 bill from Medical City and another $665.00 bill from an associated outfit. My 7-year-old daughter, who is allergic to nuts, had eaten half a nut-filled cookie, and I’d taken her to the Medical City Children’s ER. I hasten to mention that every one of the medical professionals we dealt with, from the admissions staff to the docs, was great. My daughter got the care she needed in a timely manner. The staff was helpful and patient. But the itemized bill is truly a thing of wonder.
In a post on his blog today, the Dallas Mavericks owner begins by addressing the topic “Want Your Newborn to be an Athletic Superstar?”
Well I have no idea how to make sure he or she gets there. But what I do know that is if you have any such aspiration for your soon to be bundle of joy, then there is one thing you must do:
You must save the cord blood from your child’s birth.
At the Dallas Mavericks we have been diving into any and all advances in medical science that can give us a competitive edge. (The new advanced metrics that will impact the game). I’m not talking performance enhancing drugs, I’m talking proactive analysis and advanced recovery methodologies. One that is obvious is the use of Stem Cells.
What he’s writing about is the collection of blood from the umbilical cord, which you can then have stored long-term with a private cord blood bank. That blood, and the potentially useful stem cells it carries, belongs to you and is available for your use later. Privately banking therefore makes it easier to find a stem cell match for your child, should such a treatment be necessary in the future. The costs will run you at least several thousands of dollars. According to the website of one cord blood bank, it’s worth it because:
Last summer, we weren’t the only ones to take Nancy Brinker to task for the infamous Planned Parenthood fiasco. Not because the CEO and founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure yanked grants from PP, then restored them with a red face; as a private foundation, those are Komen’s decisions to make, screwy as they were.
The problem in our view was that Brinker never ‘fessed up to the real reasons behind the moves, besmirching the nonprofit’s image further with her ham-handed dishonesty.
Well, surprise, surprise. According to business columnist Cheryl Hall at the Dallas Morning News, Brinker has been handsomely rewarded for her ineptness. Cheryl found that Brinker earned nearly $685,000 in fiscal 2012—a whopping increase from her previous year’s salary of $417,000.
That really is nice work, if you can get it.
Over on D Healthcare Daily, Steve Jacob posts about a study that shows that Texas is second only to New York among the United States in the amount that hospital inpatient charges rose between 2008 and 2010. Texas saw a 9.3 percent average annual increase during that period, compared to New York’s 10.3 percent. (And a national average of 8.2 percent).
However, there were significant differences in pricing growth in metropolitan areas. For example, intensity-adjusted prices in Houston increased 0.8-2.8 percent annually, compared with 6.3-6.8 percent annually in Dallas-Plano-Irving, 8.3-8.5 percent annually in San Antonio, and 9.1-10.2 percent in Fort Worth-Arlington.
Why might Texas be outpacing much of the rest of the nation?
Steve Love, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Fort Worth Hospital Council, said the study focused on charges rather than prices. He said that did not reflect the negotiated rates paid by the insurance companies.
Love said he was not surprised by the fact that charges were going up faster in Texas. He said the price increases represent cost shifting that reflects that Texas has the nation’s leading uninsured rate. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the uninsured rate for adults age 18-64, is 31 percent.
I know many of you have likely already beat me to reading the latest edition of Workforce magazine — the publication devoted to important trends for human resources professionals — but I want to mention anyway that there’s a piece that follows up on Baylor Health Care System’s policy of not hiring anyone who uses tobacco products.
That ban went into effect in January 2012. Previously Baylor had required that employees who were smokers pay a surcharge for their health care insurance, an extra $25 a pay period. When I discussed the change with Baylor CEO Joel Allison shortly before it was made, he said “We’re in the healthcare business, so we want people to practice good health” and noted that ”Five percent of the population uses up about 50 percent of the health care cost.”
Well, how has it worked out for Baylor? According to the article:
Anyone with a preliminary employment offer goes through drug screening, which includes nicotine screening. The test will detect any kind of nicotine product, including cigarettes, a nicotine patch, nicotine gum and e-cigarettes. So far, 69 of about 400 offers have been rescinded, she says, and there is no evidence Baylor is losing out on top-notch talent because of the screening.
Testing is possible because nicotine users are not a protected legal class in Texas. Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia offer legal protection to smokers, according to the American Lung Association.
Employees already working for the company weren’t required to quit smoking to keep their jobs, but they continue to pay the surcharge.
According to a report by the American Lung Association, employees who smoke cost employers an average of $1,429 more in health care costs than nonsmokers.
The journal Health Affairs found that women’s life expectancy is declining in the U.S., especially in the South. But Dallas-Fort Worth shows improvement. Steve Jacobs over at D Healthcare Daily reports this morning that the author of the study, Erika Cheng, is herself a little mystified about why.
Actress Ashley Judd credits a treatment facility near Abilene with helping her overcome depression caused by “unresolved childhood grief” in 2006. Speaking to an annual fundraising luncheon for the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, which assists abused children, Judd said she found herself at the Shades of Hope Treatment Center in Buffalo Gap, Texas, to visit her sister Wynonna, who’d checked in for a compulsive overeating disorder, during the facility’s “family week.”
Wynonna teamed with Naomi Judd, Ashley’s and Wynonna’s mother, to form the hit country-music duo The Judds in the 1980s. Ashley’s starred in movies including Double Jeopardy and Ruby in Paradise.
Wynonna “would say,’I think I need to go to cooking school,’ ” Ashley, 44, told 1,100 people at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel today, spurring laughter. “Isn’t that just like an addict?!” The actress said she had been the victim of child abuse–in her case, the abuse included abandonment and neglect—as well as rape. So when it came time for her to leave Shades of Hope, she recalled, “they did an intervention on me.” The facility’s founding owner told her, “No one ever thinks to do an intervention on the lost child.” After having been “so choked on my own pain and ashamed of my own shame …” Ashley said, the Texas treatment center “gave me a safe place to fall apart.”
Dr. Kern Wildenthal, target of a sort of guilty-until-proven-innocent jihad by Dallas’ daily newspaper over his expense reporting, has thanked friends and supporters for standing by him in the face of the “misleading and false information.”
In an email sent yesterday afternoon, the former president of UT Southwestern Medical Center referred to a recent “Open Letter” of support that appeared as an ad in both the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman. The ad was signed by hundreds of prominent Dallasites, including former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and her husband Ray, Laura Miller and Steve Wolens, Caren Prothro, Ruth and Dr. Ken Altshuler, and—this one had to sting the DMN— Mrs. Burl Osborne.
Said Wildenthal in his email:
The organizers of the “Open Letter” felt that its publication was necessary because, with one exception, media stories concerning the recent reports from an independent external auditing and accounting firm (Grant Thornton LLP) and from the UT System’s newly appointed chief of internal audits had neglected to provide a balanced and fair account of the key findings and central conclusions of the auditors’ reports.
The fundamental conclusions of the new external and internal reports were similar to all the official UT System and UT Southwestern audits that had been conducted in previous years – namely, that my activities, expenses, documentations, and reimbursements were reasonable and appropriate; were of clear benefit to UT Southwestern; and were in conformance with UT rules and standards. These findings were as expected, but it was nevertheless very gratifying to have them confirmed and finalized. As the “Open Letter” noted, the auditors determined that the few over-reimbursements I had inadvertently received through clerical errors and oversights over the last ten years ($6,176) were actually outweighed by fully substantiated, reimbursable expenses which would properly have been paid by UT Southwestern, but for which I had paid personally ($17,139).
For some individuals it would no doubt be of interest for the recent reports of Grant Thornton and the UT System to be described and analyzed in detail, along with explanations of how these in-depth reviews have answered and corrected earlier mistakes, omissions, and misinterpretations (and I can provide this if anyone wishes to know more details). However, I have come to realize that perpetuating a public debate on this issue is fruitless.
View DFW Abortion Providers in a larger map
Senate Bill 537 is a slippery one. Supporters claim the bill — which would require abortions, including drug-induced ones, to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers — is aimed at saving lives. Detractors claim the bill is a back-door abortion ban. One thing is abundantly clear: if Senate Bill 537 passes, Texas women would have far fewer options, geographically.
Thirty-seven of the state’s 42 abortion clinics do not qualify as ambulatory surgical centers. And, of the 416 ambulatory surgical centers in the state, only five perform abortions, the Texas Tribune reported. If the bill passes, those 37 clinics would be forced to undergo costly renovations — adding infrastructure, reconstructing rooms and doorways — or close their doors. If that were to happen, only one abortion clinic would remain in North Texas: the Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center. As the map above indicates, every other clinic would either close or be forced to renovate their facilities. That’s nearly 7 million people — not counting outlying counties, whose women rely on resources within DFW — with one abortion facility.
The only other ASCs in Texas are: a Planned Parenthood in Austin, a Whole Woman’s in San Antonio, a Planned Parenthood in Houston and an Aaron Women’s Health Center in Houston.
“There’s no recent spike in risk or safety incidents that this regulation is responding to. It’s pure politics,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four abortion clinics, including one in Fort Worth, told the Tribune. “The thing we need to worry about is, when you take away women’s access to safe abortion, then what’s going to happen?”
How do you raise hundreds of millions of dollars for one of the state’s leading public institutions, helping it attain world-class status in the process? Well, you’re unlikely to do it by meeting a wealthy potential donor over coffee at the corner Starbucks, or by asking for a 15-minute chitchat at his or her business office. You meet such donors on their own terms, on their own turf. And the courtship can take years. It might even involve a trip to the opera, say, or a nice bottle of wine. Anyone who finds this fact of life shocking or objectionable or somehow untoward is probably naïve.
That, or they’re a newspaper bent on skewering a community icon.
That seems to have been the situation dogging Dr. Kern Wildenthal, former president of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. As most readers will recall, Wildenthal became the target of a series of articles in The Dallas Morning News examining the travel and entertainment expenses he incurred doing his fundraising job. Initially, the News said its investigating had found more than $700,000 in expenses mainly between 2005 and 2010 that were “poorly documented, had no tangible benefit to UTSW or closely tracked his personal interests, including foreign travel with his wife, opera, and wine.” Wildenthal said the expenses were justified. Still, it looked bad.
Not that it was every truly in danger of going permanently extinct, but the Twinkie is back. The New York Post broke the news last night about the Irving-based cakery:
[Billionaire private equity mogul Leon] Black’s Apollo Global Management was the only entity to make a bid for the snacks business of bankrupt Hostess Brands – grabbing ownership of the stable of well known brands for $410 million, The Post has learned.
The private equity firm — known for making money off distressed assets — teamed with veteran food exec Dean Metropoulos on the bid for the business, which also includes Ho-Hos, Donettes and Dolly Madison in addition to Twinkies. The deadline for bids was Monday at 5 p.m.
Hostess creditor Silver Point Capital and Hurst Capital in recent days had submitted letters indicating an intention to bid – but in the end neither stepped up to the plate with a firm proposal.
As we all know, Metropoulos also owns Pabst Blue Ribbon. I would never, ever make the assertion that these two treats are a match made in trashy heaven. Reuters caught up with Metropoulos’ son Daren, who said the snack cakes could be back on shelves by the summer.
Responding to questions about the percentage of women who voted for President Obama in last year’s election, former first lady Laura Bush told CNN last night that conservative candidates with extreme views on reproductive science are not the norm in the Republican Party.
She told Erin Burnett OutFront that “every candidate was different,” but that some were “obviously examples of candidates who frightened some women.” Those candidates, she said, “were the exception rather than the norm in the party.”
Bush went on to say that social issues shouldn’t be ignored just because of the party’s struggle to talk about them in an appealing way to voters.
“All of those social issues are very, very heartfelt by people,” she said. “And I understand their differences. And I’m glad that in our party we have room for all of them. I think that’s important too.”
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to Dallas this week, hat in hand. Myers is seeking “seed money” for a new training program for military veterans that bears his name, to be launched by MediSend International, a Dallas-based nonprofit. The $1.5 million, General Richard B. Myers Veterans Biomedical Equipment Technology Program will train vets to be biomedical repair technicians and ready them for employment in less than six months.
On Thursday Myers, a member of the MediSend advisory board, pitched the fledgling program to an unidentified corporation and spoke to a small gathering at the offices of Strasburger & Price LLP, one of the program sponsors. Today he’ll talk up the training initiative to more potential donors, then be feted at a small dinner party hosted by Carol Glendenning, vice president of the Dallas Opera board and a partner at Strasburger.
Nick Hallack, MediSend president and CEO, came up with the idea to get Myers involved in the new venture. And why not: the retired general’s star power can’t hurt as MediSend attempts to raise money for the program. As of Thursday, Hallack said, the program had $500,000 in commitments, leaving $1 million to go. The fundraising piece is important, he added, because Irving-based Exxon Mobil, which has supported MediSend for years with the likes of scholarships and grants, “has reduced some of its funding” recently.