Physician, Heel Thyself

Docs' moving claims don't ad up.

Raising Helen
In the Plain Dealer ad featuring him, Dr. Gary Gottlieb appeared solemn, even a little sad. Below him was a line that read, "Gone. A real physician, with real patients, who is really leaving Ohio." The ad, paid for by the Ohio State Medical Association, warned that "frivolous lawsuits are driving up insurance rates by as much as 400 percent -- and driving good doctors like Gary out of town or into early retirement."

Gottlieb, a gastrointestinal specialist from Mayfield Heights, says that his malpractice insurance premiums will drop from $85,000 to $5,000 when he moves to Arizona. The medical association's ad was part of its campaign to support a bill limiting patients' right to sue that recently cleared the State House and Senate.

But according to a 30-year study by Americans for Insurance Reform, rates are skyrocketing because insurance companies are trying to recoup the billions they lost on the stock market in recent years.

And the $80,000 difference between Ohio and Arizona? "The simple answer is that insurance is regulated by the states," says Rick Nelson, spokesman for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. "So state regulations play a major role in the cost of insurance."

In fact, trade mag Insurance Journal recently reported that "skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums" are driving docs out of Arizona. "This is a line that insurance companies use all over the country," says Geoff Boehm, spokesman for Americans for Insurance Reform. "Doctors in state A say they're all leaving for state B, while doctors in state B say they're all leaving for state C."

And Ohio should have plenty of doctors for the foreseeable future: The number of doctors per capita in Ohio has risen steadily for years, faster than the national average. Even Gottlieb concedes that it's complicated. "Why are the rates higher here?" he says. "I don't know. I don't claim to be an expert in this."

CSU not with stupid
It used to be that anyone with a GED and a checking account could get into Cleveland State. But now that CSU's Board of Trustees has voted to raise admissions standards, slackers need not apply. Starting in 2006, only those with C averages in high school and passable SATs will be granted regular, no-strings-attached admission.

The admissions standards still seem pretty modest, but Katherine Li, student representative to the Board, is pleased. She points out that if the quality of freshmen increases, the school's reputation will improve.

Plain-spoken President Michael Schwartz puts it another way: It's time to trim the fatheads. In his State of the University speech, he said that CSU can't continue to let clueless students "flounder through the system."

Take this Bob and shove it
Talk about unnamed sources. Reporters at Akron's Beacon Journal are withholding their names from articles this week to protest stalled labor talks. Their union has been negotiating a new contract for 11 months. The sticking points are rising health-care costs, the use of freelancers, and paltry wage increases.

Education reporter and union chair Stephanie Warsmith says she hopes that the missing names will send a message to readers that "we're not going to stand by and watch our union and our newspaper be destroyed."

Since 2001, the union has lost 35 members to layoffs, buyouts, and early retirements. The paper dropped its Sunday magazine, closed bureaus in Hudson and Medina, and reduced its Columbus team from five to one.

Will the byline strike impress corporate parent Knight Ridder? Probably not. But a real strike might, which is why the union members voted to authorize one last week.

India calling
We knew that Republicans are big fans of outsourcing. And why not? The world's full of dirt-poor countries, where everyone's really good at math and stuff and they have no word for "weekend."

But this surprised even us. According to Hindustan Times, an Indian newspaper, a Washington-based company hired by the GOP to make fund-raising and polling calls to registered Republicans outsourced the work to India. Between May 2002 and July 2003, tens of thousands of American voters were contacted by Indian telemarketers making $9.25 per hour (which ain't bad). The paper estimates that at least $10 million was raised.

If only they'd outsourced the Iraq-war planning.

Upgrade to Cleveland
Club Voodoo in Cuyahoga Falls hosts a series of eight-week "Akron Idol" competitions, winners of which get a grand-prize trip to the next American Idol auditions in Detroit.

It'd be an ideal first step toward stardom, if not for two small problems: 1) The terms "winner" and "Detroit" have no business in the same sentence, and 2) American Idol has no plans for a Detroit audition this year.

But now there's good news too: The Fox series just announced that it will hold its first-ever regional auditions in Cleveland this fall. Thus, the new and improved grand prize for Akron Idol winners is not having to go to Michigan. And since Voodoo won't have to foot the bill for hotels, organizer Kim Diamond says, winners will get the royal treatment for their vacation up I-77.

"We're gonna pimp them out," says Diamond, adding that full makeovers and clothing will be included. "It'll be over my dead body that one of our contestants doesn't go to Hollywood."

Poker as penance
Greater Cleveland cops have long suspected that the area's Vegas Night charity-casino operators are skimming from their games, leaving the charity a mere pittance of the house winnings. Former operator Mike Moneypenny ["The House Folds," February 4] is still awaiting trial on felony charges of allegedly pocketing millions. Other operators in town have also been investigated.

From this crew emerges an unlikely hero: Mike Swaney. In January Swaney confessed to Scene that "Years ago, I had my hand further into the charity's pocket than I should have." Now he's dealing the straightest game in town.

Two Swaney-organized games in May raised $56,500 for the St. Joseph Christian Life Center, a Catholic retreat off Lake Shore Boulevard. "What will we do with the funds?" asks Father Wally. "Stay open."

At the Brook Park Armory, Swaney had between six and seven tables dealing Texas Hold 'Em, according to an associate who helped organize the event. John Copic, one of the few casino operators who hasn't been busted, has dealt games at more tables, yet has paid charities less than $10,000.

"Because of the bad rap that some of these promoters have, it was an unnerving thing to do this," says Father Wally. "But [Swaney] proved to be a man of his word."

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