Memorial committee mired by indecision

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If its third meeting is any indication, the city-appointed Memorial Health System commission won’t get around to answering questions about the future of the two-hospital network any time soon.

Members of the 11-member board, which gathered on Tuesday, became mired in detail, bureaucracy and technical language — struggling to define the “problem” and questioning why they were even convened by the city council.

“Nobody has told us why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said Chairman Stephen Hyde. “That leaves it to us to answer that.”

Hyde suggested a six-step approach: define the problem, set goals and objectives, gather information and data, set boundaries for the issues, identify solutions and then specify a set of options to city council.

“We need to quantify the quantifiable,” Hyde said. “And the qualitative issues — we need to make sure we don’t quantify.”

That bit of, ahem, insight led to an hours-long discussion about the process the commission would use as a roadmap.

And they still got lost along the way.

At one point, an audience member attempted to bring them back to the issue at hand.

“The bottom line, is there a problem with Memorial?” said Ed Allen. “If there is, solve it. Solve it without all this malarkey. Seems to me you could move ahead quite rapidly.”

But the commission argued for nearly two hours about whether a mission statement was needed, if stating a “problem” was too negative and whether the suggested steps even needed to be followed.

Finally, the group agreed that it was there to “research optimal ownership and governance” as a statement of purpose, which replaced the troublesome “problem” statement.

At 5 p.m., they only had five more steps of the six-step process to deliberate.

CMS fires Fox Insurance

A Colorado insurance company was terminated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for denying coverage of HIV, cancer and seizure medications to patients eligible for the government’s prescription coverage plan.

Fox Insurance Co., which provides coverage in 21 states including Colorado, was terminated by CMS last week. Enrollees in its plan can now get their medication through Li-Net, a program administered by Humana.

CMS characterized the termination as “essential to protect members’ health and safety.”

Fox was sanctioned Feb. 26 because the organization was not following Medicare’s rules for providing prescription drug coverage. After an onsite audit earlier this month, CMS found persistent problems. The audit said Fox “continued to subject its enrollees to obstacles in getting needed, and in many cases, life-sustaining medicines.”

CMS found obstacles that limit access to high-cost drugs.

Medicare prescription drug plans with Fox can call 1-800-Medicare for more information. CMS will be sending letters to Fox clients explaining the change.

Caffeine keeps hearts beating

A coffee a day … keeps the cardiologist away?

Yep. New research has found coffee drinkers are less likely to be hospitalized for heart rhythm disturbances.

That’s the word from a new study to be presented at the American Heart Association’s 50th annual conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.

Large doses of caffeine can produce heart irregularities, but researchers found that people who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had an 18 percent lower risk of hospitalization for heart rhythm disturbances. Those who reported drinking one to three cups a day had a 7 percent reduction in risk, said Arthur Klatsky, the study’s lead investigator.

Art helps heal wounded warriors

As Fort Carson soldiers return home after combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new art program designed by the Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group is helping them cope with combat stress.

The public can see the results of art therapy on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Fine Arts Center until June 20. The classes were held at the FAC’s Bemis School of Art, using art therapy instructors from the behavioral health group.

Participants suffer from both physical and mental disorders related to their combat service in the wars.

The program also has the potential to raise awareness and funds for programming. The artwork will be displayed at the FAC during Conflict | Resolution and auctioned at behavioral health group’s annual Heroes of Mental Health event later this year.

Amy Gillentine can be reached at 719-329-5205 or at