Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) plans to send a letter giving CMS Administrator Tom Scully a chance to respond to allegations that his agency has acted improperly by favoring one vendor to develop a standardized patient-satisfaction survey. In February, Modern Healthcare was the first to report that the CMS will require hospitals to administer the patient-satisfaction surveys as a condition of Medicare participation. The controversy now centers around the CMS' selection of a vendor to develop the standard survey. Scully told Modern Healthcare that the CMS does not favor any particular vendor and that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will use a combination of instruments to develop the survey. Scully said he would fully cooperate with Tauzin's requests, saying the two have a good relationship.
But others claim Scully plans to give the business to National Research Corp., a Lincoln, Neb.-based company that acquired the survey firm Picker Institute in May 2001. The Gallup Organization, a major public polling firm, has argued that awarding a contract to NRC would give that company an unfair advantage in the market for hospital surveys. "We're doing the right thing and will continue doing the right thing," Scully said. "The problem is that NRC/Picker has totally inappropriately led people to believe they have some kind of inside track, which is absolutely wrong." An NRC spokesman said, "There's no relationship between NRC and the CMS."-- by Jeff Tieman