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ONLINE News Briefs


Mutual Funds, Autos, Financial Data, Prescription Drugs, Our Web Poll


ONLINE News Briefs

Mutual Funds: Why the smart money sometimes isn’t

The bear market may not be the only thing pulling down your portfolio. The average mutual fund investor hurts his investments by buying high and selling low, says a study by the Financial Research Corporation.

The study examined quarterly investment returns and net mutual fund sales from 1990 to 1999 and found that more money flowed into funds after they’d reached their peaks than when they were on their way up. By the time investors realized that a fund was doing well, the big bucks had already been made. On average, $91 billion flowed into funds after they hit their highest returns and had started to decline. But only $6.5 billion went into funds after they hit a bottom and started earning higher returns.

Autos: Your chances of getting whiplash are going down

Newer cars offer more head restraints that have a good chance of protecting you from neck injury, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. More than half of all 2001 model cars offer head restraints that are rated good or acceptable, compared with only 7 percent in 1995. “In that year, unless you were short, it was hard to find a car with a head restraint high enough to provide protection. But now, even taller people have a good chance of getting head restraints that will protect them,” says IIHS Chief Operating Officer Adrian Lund.

The top of the restraint should be at least as high as the top of the occupant’s ears, according to the IIHS, while the distance between the restraint and the back of the head should be as small as possible. To see what models earned top ratings, go to www.highwaysafety.org .

Financial Data: How much should be divulged to health plans?

Siding with the California Medical Association, a Sacramento Superior Court judge has ordered the state Department of Managed Health Care not to implement recently adopted regulations pertaining to medical groups’ solvency.

Under the rules, insurers and HMOs would have full access to medical groups’ confidential, proprietary financial information-including profit and loss rates, patient mix, “customer lists,” the reimbursement methodology used to pay physicians, and cash flow statements. The CMA sued to keep the information private, contending that the regulations contradict the intent of a 1999 law enacted in the face of hundreds of medical group and IPA failures. That law, meant to promote medical groups’ fiscal solvency and improve their negotiating position, specifies that the department cannot do anything to “adversely affect the integrity of the contract negotiation process.” If the DMHC were permitted to release such detailed financial information, the CMA argues, it would give health plans an unfair advantage in contract negotiations.

The judge set a Nov. 30 trial date for the CMA’s lawsuit.

Prescription Drugs: A private initiative to ease the cost burden

Former US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-MA) has launched a discount card program in three New England states to provide low-cost generic and brand-name medications to uninsured senior citizens and working families.

Unlike the card program proposed by the Bush administration, all prescription drugs would be covered. Citizens Health—a subsidiary of Kennedy’s Citizens Energy—has negotiated discounts with about 1,000 pharmacies in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

It’s estimated that participants in the program could cut their drug outlays by as much as 42 percent. In addition, Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline have agreed to give participants even deeper discounts on certain brand-name drugs. Membership in Citizens Health costs $12 annually for individuals and $28 for families.

Our Web Poll

On our Web site, www.memag.com , we asked physicians: “With net primary care earnings falling behind inflation over the past five years, would you advise your children to seek a career other than medicine?”

Yes 58%
No 42%


Yvonne Wollenberg. ONLINE News Briefs.

Medical Economics


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