HCFA on Friday published in the Federal Register a proposed revised set of "conditions of participation" in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The revision, the first since 1986, would increase quality-measurement requirements for hospitals. Hospitals would not have to re-apply for Medicare and Medicaid certification under the new standards but instead meet the new requirements under their existing certification. The comment period on the 37-page set of regulations ends Feb. 17.
Tenet Healthcare Corp. signed an agreement on Friday to acquire Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles for $86.4 million in cash and other interests. The net proceeds -- expected to top $100 million -- will be retained by the not-for-profit corporation that operates the 409-bed hospital and will be used to finance healthcare for Hollywood's low-income residents. The deal is going forward even though the Queen of Angels medical staff sued the hospital last month to block the deal. No trial date has been set, and officials were uncertain as to how the litigation might affect the transaction. No closing date has been set, pending review and final approval by the California attorney general's office and a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
A federal judge late last week ordered the White House to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution to a physician group after the judge found that the U.S. Justice Department misled the court about the nature of the Clinton administration's healthcare reform task force. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed suit in 1993 against the task force's leaders, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House healthcare adviser Ira Magaziner. The AAPS alleged that the White House had broken the law by keeping the task force deliberations secret. While no criminal conduct was found, the court concluded that the White House had tried to thwart the probe through misleading statements.
Insurers have been quicker than consumers to respond to the federal medical savings account legislation, according to a General Accounting Office report scheduled to be released this week. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, enacted in 1996, allowed medical savings accounts for the first time but limited the number of accounts at 725,000. The GAO found that by mid-1997, every state but Maine and Vermont had a plan available with nearly 60 insurers offering plans. However, more than three-quarters of the insurers said sales have been weaker than expected and by the end of June, less than 25,000 plans had been sold. The GAO said it appeared sales were increasing as consumer awareness of MSAs increased.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the sale of 210,000 shares of Oxford Health Plans stock by Chairman Stephen Wiggins in August for about $15 million, before the stock reached a record high, the company confirmed late last week. Oxford shares fell 62% in late October on news it would post its first-ever quarterly loss in the third quarter. Later, the company announced it would post a fourth-quarter loss as well, causing a further drop in the share price, which has lost more than 80% of its value. The Norwalk, Conn.-based managed-care company said Wiggins sold the shares to pay federal income tax on stock options he exercised in July before they expired. It said the SEC has requested various documents related to recent events at the company and that it is cooperating fully.
Fewer than half the 63 organ procurement organizations in the U.S. have established standards on how to determine death in patients who are on life support but are not brain dead, said an Institute of Medicine report released late last week. The IOM said many organizations do not have protocols on what treatments they may use to sustain organs before death and how to approach families about organ donation. The report responds to questions from HHS about actions by agencies or hospitals that may have been hastening death for donor patients.
The VHA hospital alliance late last week named Stuart Baker, M.D., as executive vice president of clinical affairs, a new position and one of only four reporting to C. Thomas Smith, VHA's president and chief executive officer. Starting in mid-January, Baker, 48, will lead Irving, Texas-based VHA's services for physicians and other clinicians. Baker has been vice president and chief medical officer of Sentara Health System, Norfolk, Va.