HHS' inspector general's office late last week said it was dropping 16 of the 49 investigations it has under way into Medicare billing practices by teaching hospitals and their faculty practice plans. The agency notified the 16 hospitals they're off the hook because they had received insufficient billing guidance from the program's fiscal intermediaries, an agency spokeswoman said. Special-interest groups have been pressuring Congress and HHS to back off of some of its hospital billing investigations (See related story, p. 12).
Two Cincinnati-based systems, TriHealth and Franciscan Health System of the Ohio Valley, late last week entered a 60-day agreement for exclusive negotiations. They didn't specify what type of relationship might result. Combined, the systems operate five acute-care hospitals in Cincinnati and one in Dayton, Ohio, as well as long-term-care facilities, home health agencies and related services. The systems said the terms of their agreement prohibit them from commenting on the progress of their talks.
Quorum Health Group late last week agreed to acquire 201-bed Methodist Hospital of Hattiesburg (Miss.). The private not-for-profit hospital, which would be converted into a for-profit, would be Quorum's 13th owned or managed hospital in the state. Terms of the sale, which is expected to be completed Aug. 31, weren't disclosed. But a spokeswoman for Brentwood, Tenn.-based Quorum said $35 million from the sale will fund a new not-for-profit foundation.
After a two-month antitrust investigation, the Federal Trade Commission has cleared the proposed three-way merger of Buffalo (N.Y.) General Health System, Children's Hospital of Buffalo and Millard Fillmore Health System in Buffalo. The FTC had no comment. But Richard Raskin, the hospitals' antitrust attorney, confirmed the agency's blessing. With 1,888 staffed beds and total assets of $596 million, the three hospitals would control 35% of the hospital market in an eight-county area surrounding Buffalo, the hospitals said. They expect to close the deal by year-end.