The public-polling firm the Gallup Group has filed a federal lawsuit accusing CMS Administrator Tom Scully of intimidation in connection with the development of a standard patient-satisfaction survey that Medicare eventually will require hospitals to administer and publish the results of. The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington, seeks at least $5 million in damages. Gallup said that in March its managing partner, Bob Nielsen, sent an e-mail to the Office of Management and Budget requesting that funding for the hospital satisfaction survey stop until it could be determined if the CMS was unfairly favoring one vendor, NRC/Picker, based in Lincoln, Neb. Scully has repeatedly said the agency is not selecting any one vendor and that no contracts have been awarded. The Gallup lawsuit accuses Scully of abusing his authority as a federal official with threatening correspondence, including an e-mail in which Scully referred to Nielsen as a "jerk."
"We're not intimidating anyone," Scully told Modern Healthcare. "We asked (the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) to find the best survey platform. The AHRQ is going to do the work, and we're going to put it out." Today, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) sent a letter to Scully and AHRQ Director Carolyn Clancy requesting information on the process for developing the surveys and whether conflicts of interest have been involved. Scully has said he will cooperate with Tauzin's inquiry. -- by Jeff Tieman