The Washington Post reported on a recent realization last week -- that CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) officials in charge of over $300 million in contract awards for quality improvement organizations (QIOs) enjoyed more than their share of trips to beach and mountain resorts on QIO dollars:
In a letter sent on Wednesday to CMS Administrator Mark McClellan, Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) requested detailed reports on travel and expenditures for agency employees who attended conferences since 2003, including two physicians -- Steven Jencks and William Rollow -- who oversee QIO contracts. According to the letter, photographs of one conference site at a beach resort in St. Petersburg, Fla., "suggest a cruise ship atmosphere" and "depict a luxurious resort, lavish dinners, dessert buffets and Hawaiian dance parties -- all in a tropical beach locale." The committee launched the investigation in August 2005 after a Post series reported that QIOs -- private, state-based contractors paid by Medicare to investigate patient complaints and oversee quality of care issues -- often fail to investigate complaints and that some executives receive high salaries and perks.Hawaiian dance parties? Buffets? Sounds great -- especially when the contracts are for assuring quality in health care organizations. You remember quality, right? As in not causing 100,000 deaths due to medical error every year? Yeah, that.