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December 8, 2002

The Health Care Conundrum Solved

Dear Solvers:

No, of course there is no easy solution for the health care crisis in DC, or for health care problems nationally. But the hard solutions will only come when both liberals and conservatives admit that the other side of the debate is right. Conservatives are right that government, either local or federal, is a lousy provider of health care. Government is the most inefficient, ineffective, expensive, and wasteful way to provide any service to individuals. And liberals are right that there are tremendous holes in the health care that private sources, whether emergency rooms, hospitals, clinics, private physicians, HMOs, or pharmacies, can provide to the poor and uninsured. But the national battle between conservatives and liberals, in which DC is a pawn, is waged as an all-or-nothing fight over privatizing or governmentalizing practically all elements of Americans' health care.

The current issue of The New Republic has an article on the health care problems of Los Angeles County by Jonathan Cohn ( Los Angeles seems to have many of the same problems as DC, just on a larger scale, as befits its larger population. It has closed one of its six public hospitals and, reports Cohn, may close two more of them. But Tom Scully, the same director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services who promotes the “Washington model” of privatization and who gave a temporary bailout to Greater Southeast Hospital just two weeks ago, refuses to consider any further federal aid for LA, apparently because it hasn't sufficiently privatized services. The irony, of course, is that the Washington model has stumbled from a public hospital (DC General), to a public hospital run by a semi-independent agency (the Public Benefits Corporation), to a private hospital run by a private corporation with public subsidies (Greater Southeast and Doctors Community), and soon to a system run directly by an agency of the executive branch of the government (the Department of Health) featuring a private hospital with questionable funding and stability. This next step may well be the final one, since there seems to be no further depth of incompetence to which we can fall.

Gary Imhoff


Party Lines
Scott McLarty,

Those of us in the Green Party often get blamed for calling the Democrats no different from the Republicans. The accusation isn't fair; what Greens say is that as Dems have retreated from their populist positions and colluded with Repubs, they've given the GOP the license to move to greater extremes. (Liberal Nancy Pelosi now says she'll acquiesce in Bush's imperial war plans.) But here in DC, the convergence of the two parties is undeniable, with Council members Schwartzman and Catania defending some traditional Democratic Party positions while Mayor Williams conspires with Congress and the White House and embraces their ideology of privatization of public resources and services. Even The Washington Post begrudgingly admits that the Statehood Green Party is now DC's real opposition party: “We can't help noting how this year's council races highlight the low state of the Republican Party in the District and the Statehood Green Party's growing presence on the political scene. . . . [Statehood Green] candidates are running on a platform of many issues that we don't support. But [they are] well versed in their party's positions and eager to make their views known.” (October 28)

The Post's editorialist, true to form, failed to inform us about what that “platform of many issues” might be. The Post has always been happy with the one-party rule that Paul Dionne lamented in themail on December 1. Statehood Greens vigorously opposed the Mayor's privatization of public health care long before Council chimed in; criticized plans for taxpayer-funded Olympics facilities and ballpark (still on the table); offered a feasible alternative to the FY2003 budget that would have reversed the Council's budget cuts for public schools, libraries, Interim Disability Assistance, the Housing Production Fund, etc.; and run their campaigns without the corporate funding that compromises D's & R's alike. The 8-15 percent achieved by Statehood Green candidates seems to coincide with the percentage of DC voters that actually heard them speak publicly or took time to learn about what they stood for.

So why do people vote party line, regardless of their own interests, and keep reelecting people like Mayor Williams, Jack Evans, Harold Brazil, and other patent flunkies for big real estate firms, developers, hotels, PEPCO, insurance companies, and other elite interests? I recall the horror and consternation among so many (mostly white, west-of-16th-Street) DC folks over all those black votes that returned Marion Barry to the mayor's office in 1994. Barry's scandals were penny ante next to Anthony Williams' accumulation of cronyism, dishonesty, acceptance of improper funding, diversion of public resources, election shenanigans, etc., unless womanizing and self-medication cause more public damage than, say, concealing $200 million in order to make DC's only full-service public hospital appear insolvent and then destroying it. But that didn't stop the same Barry-haters from voting Williams back in office. Can someone explain this to me?


You Gotta Pay to Play
Dorothy Brizill,

If you want a health care contract in DC, you know what you have to do. Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation got the contract to manage the day-to-day operations of the DC Healthcare Alliance and to provide inpatient, specialty, and correctional care. Doctors Community Healthcare and its corporate officers were the largest contributors to Mayor Williams' campaign fund. The DC Chartered Health Plan got the contract for administrative services (management enrollment, care coordination, and utilization management) for the Healthcare Alliance. DC Chartered Health Plan, its owner, Jeffrey Thompson, and Thompson's partners at the accounting firm of Thompson, Cobb, and Bazilio were the second largest contributors to Mayor Williams' campaign fund.

Now that the bankruptcy of Doctors Community and Greater Southeast make it inevitable that they will be replaced as the day-to-day operations manager of the Healthcare Alliance, there are two leading contenders to take its place and pick up its administrative responsibilities — either the DC Chartered Health Plan or the District government's Department of Health. Whichever organization wins, Karen Dale, the current Chief Executive Officer of Greater Southeast Hospital, should be secure, since she is closely tied to all of the players. Dale, who is a registered nurse with a Masters of Science in Nursing degree, worked as Senior Deputy Director of Public Health Services at the DC Department of Health as recently as January 2000. Then she became Chief Operating Officer of the DC Chartered Health Plan until July 2002, when she was named as Chief Operating Officer of Greater Southeast Community Hospital, Hadley Memorial Hospital, and DC General's ambulatory and emergency care centers. She was promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the hospitals in mid-October. (The Washington Post's flattering profile of Dale, published on November 24, glided over these ties with the statement that she came to Greater Southeast “after a string of successful managerial jobs at large for-profit health care businesses and one year as a senior deputy in the DC Department of Health.”)


Left Hand, Meet the Right Hand
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

Once again a city government agency has demonstrated that it could screw up a one car funeral. The DPW recently changed the designation of some of the city's byways to “Snow Emergency” Routes. This designation means that no cars can be parked on those roadways when a snow emergency has been declared. No one made sure that the residents on these newly designated routes were informed of the change, and the maps that were on line did not properly show what roads were, indeed, snow emergency routes. The result: ticketed and towed cars on those newly designated snow emergency routes.

The DPW needs a healthy dose of vitamin “C”: cooperation, coordination, and communication. All it takes is a coordinated plan, coordination between all the elements of the DPW and the DC Police, and communication within the DC government and with the affected residents. The left hand has to know what the right hand is doing.


Let It Snow, But Slip Sliding Away in the Neighborhood
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

Gary may have been thinking of the Mediterranean, but it's too much fun here. Most of us northerners who've adopted DC as our home recognize that snowy days in Washington are one of the most entertaining times of year. I'm looking out my window at snow covering everything -- not a lot of snow. Not enough to slow anyone down in my upstate New York college town, not enough to cause more than a hiccup in rush hour in Boston. But here, everyone's holed up at home with the massive quantities of bread, milk, and toilet paper they bought last night, sitting out the “disaster.” I actually like this; up north this would just be another day, but here it's a reason to work at home. Everyone in my office thinks that one needs a four wheel drive vehicle for this kind of snow (my little Honda did just fine in the October-to-April snows of NY state, thank you very much), and I have no desire to deal with other commuters out there. So I enjoy this quirk of DC, the strange amnesia that makes each snowstorm seem like the first anyone's seen, put on some coffee, fire up the laptop, and get to work in my home office.

However, now that a few days have passed since the snowstorm, we see one of those DC things that I just don't understand — lots and lots of sidewalks covered with packed-down snow. They're a hazard to pedestrians, who either risk falling or have to walk in the street and risk getting hit by cars. I'm assuming that in DC, like most cities, it's a property owner's responsibility to clear the sidewalk in front of his or her building. (Even if it's not, it's just a matter of basic courtesy and concern for other people. Am I really naive to think this exists?)

Maybe I have different expectations after spending most of my life in snow country, but why isn't the city out ticketing properties with uncleared walks? In Boston you could count on this happening in any central city neighborhood shortly after the snow stopped. And there, icy walks were far less frequent. (If any readers out there haven't bothered to shovel their walks, I'd be sincerely interested in your reasoning — I am honestly mystified by this.)


Not Fun and Fun
Ed T. Barron, edtb@aoldotcom

The Peace Pageant with the Christmas Tree lighting on the White House ellipse was definitely not fun. It may have looked great on TV but was a nightmare for those who attended with little kids. Arriving at 3:45 p.m. for a 5 p.m. start of the ceremonies one would get on a very long line to go through security. Then one would have to get on an equally long line inside the fence to go through a second security checkpoint. Never could figure that one out. We finally got to our seats with the two grand gals just one minute before 5 p.m. to watch some mediocre entertainers headlined by Barbara Eden (Hey she's older than even I am). One woman with a very young infant inside her coat in a chest sling was alerted by the youngster that he was hungry after all the waiting on long lines. His mom tried to get back out of the second line only to be manhandled by two male US Park Police, one under each arm, and telling her that she could not leave. She was rescued by two female Park Police who escorted the woman to a place where she could feed her young baby. She managed to do that and then was cordially escorted out to the entrance. A bad place to bring young kids with the interminable security checks that make the airports look like a walk in the park.

Ah, but the fun part. That was sliding down the big hills in the new snow. Haven't had my chin three inches above the ground on a sled while racing headlong down a steep slope in more than half a century. I occasionally take a spill while doing some semi-reckless downhill skiing each year but the thrill of doing that headlong bit while on my belly with a grand gal on my back was just exhilarating. It brought back very fond memories of the hills in Farragut Woods in Brooklyn. Now that's fun.


Mr. Second Vice President
Dorothy Brizill,

Mayor Tony Williams, as people are finally beginning to note, travels out of town far more often than the peripatetic past Mayor, Marion Barry. For most of the past week, while the health care crisis continued and the snow fell, Mayor Williams was in Salt Lake City successfully campaigning for the position of Second Vice President of the National League of Cities. Williams is now in position to advance to become president of the NLC in 2004. In fact, when Williams hired his current Chief of Staff, Kelvin Robinson, in July 2001, one of Robinson's main selling points was that he had worked for the Florida League of Cities and had contacts in the NLC. For Williams, the post will raise his national visibility and result in even more future travel outside the District. In the press release announcing his election, Williams indicates that he “plans to use the position to enlighten thousands of city officials throughout the nation about the District's efforts for autonomy from the federal government and voting rights in the US Congress.” (This raises the question of what “autonomy from the federal government” means. Does Williams want DC to become not just a city-state, but an independent nation?)

Williams' travel to Salt Lake City contrasts with a trip he didn't take over the past month — to Louisiana. For the last four weeks, Mary Landrieu, Democratic Senator from Louisiana, was engaged in a tight runoff reelection race against Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell. Landrieu won that race yesterday by just 36,000 votes. Terrell had the personal backing of President Bush and substantial financial and political support from the national Republican party. Landrieu's victory hinged on energizing black voters, and she received support in getting out the black vote both from black local officials and the Congressional Black Caucus. However, although in the past term Landreiu served as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on the District of Columbia and had been very supportive of the District and the Williams administration, Williams didn't campaign in Louisiana during the four-week runoff campaign. Could it be that Williams, the summertime Democrat, was afraid of offending the Bush White House? Or did Landrieu calculate that support for the District of Columbia was a losing issue in Louisiana, even among black voters?


Ghetto Birds
Gabriel Wiest,

Helicopters. I didn't get it when I would hear my neighbors complain about the noise and vibrations. I came to mildly tolerate Falcon 1 sweeping my neighborhood with its search light or the passing medical chopper or even SkyFox. They all where in motion, so the interruption was fairly brief. Saturday morning at 7:00 when the windows started to vibrate and the sound of a helicopter roused me from my sleep, I assumed it would pass. It didn't. I finally got up and looked out the window. There were two military choppers. One emblazoned with the slogan “Go Army,” the other with “Beat Navy.” They continued hovering without moving for a couple more minutes until they went off to buzz some other neighborhoods. If I didn't have to put up with helicopters all the time, I would have laughed it off. But it was completely unnecessary, especially considering the result of the game, and a waste of time and money.


DC College Savings Plan: Moola Moola
Mark Eckenwiler,

A reminder: DC has finally gotten off its administrative keister and established a so-called “section 529” educational savings plan. (For what it's worth, we managed to beat out Florida and Washington, the remaining states with no 529 plan. See Stashing away college money in DC's plan has several potential advantages over other vehicles, including a) a DC tax deduction for contributions (up to $3K/year/donor; up to $6K/yr for joint filers), b) income free of federal and DC income tax, c) no tax on withdrawals for qualified post-secondary education expenses, and d) treatment as an asset of the donor, not of the beneficiary (which improves the odds for financial aid). Also, several of the funds available in the DC plan are “socially responsible” Calvert funds, if you prefer to make a political statement with your filthy lucre. (Alas, this only works in one direction; there is no “Merchants of Death Growth and Income Fund” available.) For the gory (but very clearly written) details, see

A caveat and a disclaimer: Unlike with IRAs, you don't have until next April to make a contribution for tax year 2002; the deadline is Dec. 31. Also, I owe no fealty to Calvert or the DC plan; I don't even like fealty pictures.


Insurance in DC
John Whiteside, johnwhiteside at earthlink dot net

Are there rules about when insurance companies can cancel auto policies in DC? I just received notice that my company is going to cancel my policy because of two claims in 2001 -- one a minor incident where I rear-ended someone at very low speed, the other a single-vehicle accident that resulted in some damage to my car. No injuries, no violations. I am shocked by this because these are the only accidents I've had in ten years; I haven't gotten a violation of any kind since 1987; and because my policy's already been renewed once since these incidents. This seems really arbitrary, and after paying lots of good money to this company (my rates more than doubled moving from Virginia to DC!) it seems like I'm being punished for actually needing the insurance I've paid good money for.

It's bad enough that insurance companies charge dramatically higher rates in the District than in Maryland and Virginia, but to add to that by canceling policies if policyholders actually make a claim seems just wrong to me. I'm wondering what the rules are (the DISR section of the city web site was not too helpful) and how much of a fuss it's worth making.


Catalan Oath of Allegiance
Nury Vandellos Reichert, a very proud Catalan,

The oath is true and exactly right and has given Catalans great pride for centuries. I used to know its exact origin and can get it for you if you are interested (have forgotten it right now).

[Yes, please do find out the story behind the oath and send it to themail. — Gary Imhoff.]


Is DC’s Financial Security a Federal Responsibility?
Len Sullivan,

A new Brookings report by Drs. Rivlin and O'Cleirecain tries to make the case that the Federal Government should guarantee the District's financial well-being with a permanent, no strings, annual handout to make up for the inconvenience of putting up with being the nation's capitol instead of a state government. Shouldn't such arguments be based on good data and analysis? Should DC be a permanent federal ward? Wouldn't it be better if the federal government used its powers to make sure that DC could achieve real financial independence? How could the US Congress do that? Is a new kind of discrimination being ignored? NARPAC's answers can be found in the December update of its web site at Try a new approach to making DC better: get positively involved.



Elevator Speech Workshop, December 14
Barbara Conn,

The Capital PC User Group Entrepreneurs and Consultants SIG (CPCUG E&C SIG) is having a special meeting workshop led by presentation coach extraordinaire Bob Bailey of ebiz. During this meeting you will learn how to set yourself apart from others and a step-by-step fail-safe approach to creating your introduction. Attend this workshop and learn how to get results, rather than disappointment, and attract the people who can help you in your business at networking events. Join us for fun, networking, and more! Invite your colleagues!

This workshop is Saturday, December 14. Check-in is at 12:30 p.m. Meeting program begins promptly at 1:00 p.m., at the Cleveland Park Library (Second Floor Large Meeting Room), 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Location is just a block and a half south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail station, half a block south of the Cineplex Odeon Uptown movie theater. Meetings of the CPCUG E&C SIG are free and are held each month. For more information about this workshop, the speaker, CPCUG and its E&C SIG, and to register for this and/or future SIG meetings, visit



Beanie Babies for Sale
Tolu Tolu,

Large collection. Will sell the lot for best offer. Call 331-4418 for details.



For Audiophiles
Victor Chudowsky,

E-mail me at if you want one or both of these amplifiers: 1) Kenwood KR6050. Late 1970s/early 80s vintage, 120 watts per channel receiver/amplifier. This thing is a monster. It is big and weighs a ton, but some people swear by these old things. The receiver works only OK, one channel occasionally does get some static, so it may need some tinkering. The sound is amazing. Wood veneer with brushed stainless steel front. 2) Fisher amplifier, 1980s vintage, no receiver, 100 watts per channel. As far as I know it works great.



Adopt a Dog
Virginia McKernan,

A special home is urgently needed for a very sweet, sadly neglected dog. Indy is a beautiful shepherd/collie mix, 13 years old, deaf and currently unable to walk up stairs. (This may just be temporary due to being left outside for two consecutive twelve-hour days in this 20 degree weather with no shelter, food or water.) He is gentle, calm, and good with children, just needs a quiet loving home to live out his last few years. He is current on all shots and will be professionally groomed by the friends who have rescued him. We will also pledge support as far as dog-sitting for vacations, etc. Please contact



Housing to Share: Four Nights a Week or Full Time
Don Lewis,

N. Cleveland Park/Tenley area, NW. Furnished large attic room in well appointed home. Professional, considerate, cleanly, responsible couple (and friends) seek same to share home. Seven minutes to Metro, close to AU/GU; gourmet kitchen, 3 1/2 baths, D/W, A/C, W/D, cable, basement rec room, porches, and lots more. Rent and security deposit: $900 including utilities ($800 for year lease); four nights a week $600; can contribute to shared phone or get own. Short term OK; flexible move in date or January 1; Contact 362-9494 or E-mail to


Office Wanted
Matthew Gilmore,

Small company looking for 1,000-1,500 square feet of office space to lease/sublease. Contact Matthew Gilmore, 352-4378,



Jeffrey Hops,

I am contemplating renovating my kitchen and bathroom, and would appreciate recommendations for general contractors that specialize in this. I seem to recall that some years ago someone on this list sent me a list she had compiled from other themail readers. Is that list still available?


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