Less than a year after he formally assumed office, Charles D. Baker, the under secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, is rumored to be considering resigning in the fall to return to private life, possibly to become president of a university.
Baker joined the department as a consultant May 2, 1984, after he had been chosen to replace John A. Svahn, but he wasn't formally confirmed by the Senate until last Aug. 9, 1984.
Meanwhile, John H. Kelso, the deputy administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, has been named its acting administrator, replacing Dr. Robert Graham, who resigned at the end of June.
BLACKS AND RETIREMENT . . . Is Social Security unfair to black Americans because the life expectancy of a black male born today is about age 65, but, by the time he retires, Social Security benefits will not be paid until he reaches age 67?
Does this mean that blacks get little or nothing in return for the years they pay into the Social Security system?
No, says Robert J. Myers, the former chief actuary of Social Security.
Using a set of life-expectancy tables recently cited in that argument, Myers noted that the tables show that 50.1 percent of all black males born today will survive to age 67 and then live 11.9 more years, on average.
So the average black male born today could expect to enjoy a retirement of about six years (50.1 percent of 11.9 years). That is not as long as for whites (8.8 years), but certainly not a total washout either.
Moreover, Myers said, the figures apply only to retirement. Blacks, like all other workers, are eligible for disability benefits if they become severely disabled before age 65, and, in addition, the surviving wife and children of a worker who dies would be eligible for survivor benefits.
DECLARING WAR . . . The American Public Welfare Association (APWA) is raising a $400,000 war chest for an 18-month campaign to help increase public support and medical aid to low-income children. Most of the programs involved are administered by the HHS, including aid to families with dependent children (AFDC), Medicaid and maternal and child health-services grants.
The APWA, which represents state and local welfare officials, said making further cuts in programs and failing to provide adequate food and medical care for children will only increase future medical and welfare costs. Michael R. Petit, who heads Maine's health and welfare programs, said, "If we spend $15,000 to send a kid to Harvard, we don't call him a parasite, but if we spend a few thousand to help some teen-age mother, who has never had a chance to make it on her own, there is a public outcry."
FEWER HOSPITAL STAYS . . . Medicare admissions to acute-care hospitals totaled 5.5 million from October 1984 to March 1985 -- a decline of 5.1 percent compared with the year before -- prompting hopes that the administration may be able to achieve further cost-savings in the giant program. The average length of stay per patient in fiscal 1984, excluding four states that have their own cost-control systems and are not under the new Medicare prospective payment system, was 8.5 days -- down from 9.5 days in fiscal 1983, when the system was just getting started. Officials credit the new system, under which fixed rates are set in advance for each type of illness, for most of the decrease.
DEEP FREEZE . . . Many hospital and medical groups, meanwhile, are protesting HHS Secretary Margaret M. Heckler's decision to freeze the fiscal 1986 Medicare reimbursement rates at the 1985 level, allowing no increase for inflation.
The American Hospital Association, representing 6,100 hospitals, said in a July 10 letter to Medicare administrator Carolyne K. Davis that the law clearly states that the Medicare rates are to be set each year at a level designed to foster efficiently managed hospitals. It said Heckler's announcement, which came months after the White House said it wanted to freeze the rates to save money, clearly was based only on the Reagan administation's budget goals.
In a separate letter, the Health Industry Manufacturers Association said Heckler had completely ignored the law's requirement that she consider the recommendations of the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission, which estimates how much Medicare payment rates should be increased each year.
The commission recommended a 2.1 percent increase for fiscal 1986. The association also contends that the freeze will "chill the climate for technological innovation."
Even if they could get Heckler to budge on some of her proposals, the hospitals may still end up with a freeze.
Both the House and Senate budget resolutions call for a freeze, although this could be changed as the legislative process continues.
SUPER PRO . . . SysteMetrics Inc., of Santa Barbara, Calif., has won the contract to serve as the "Super-Peer Review Organization," or Super Pro, for short, which will review the decisions of the state peer review organizations that monitor hospital practices under the Medicare program.
The firm will sample some of the cases handled by the state groups to make sure they are doing a good job. The initial contract is for 14 months and just under $2 million, with an option to extend for 10 months at $1.3 million.
The health-care consulting firm was founded in 1974 and has been a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill Inc. since 1982.
IG ROUNDUP . . . Inspector General Richard P. Kusserow, in his semiannual report, said actions based on his recommendations taken by Congress, the department or the courts during the six-month period ending in March will event- ually save the government $3 billion.
For example, the department hopes to save $390 million by identifying cases in which private health-insurers should be covering bills now paid by Medicare.
He said that 746 individuals were successfully prosecuted by state or local authorities as a result of his office's efforts, and that more than 100 health providers and suppliers were barred from the Medicare and Medicaid programs for fraud or abusive practices.