HealthPartners wins legal fight
HealthPartners, Bloomington, Minn., defeated Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch in a legal battle over Hatch's attempt to appoint a new board chairman and a second board member at the not-for-profit health plan. Under an order from Hennepin County Circuit Court, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor will be made a special administrator of the court instead of chairman. Hatch's request for a second appointee was denied. HealthPartners opposed the appointments but said it would accept Taylor as an adviser. The dispute dates to a January report by Hatch that detailed what he considered to be corporate excess at HealthPartners.
Surgical hospital prices fall
Wholesale prices for general and medical surgical hospitals fell 0.7% in May, while prices for physician services fell 0.1%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Producer Price Index. Prices for all finished goods fell 0.3%. When compared with a year earlier, general hospital prices were 5.1% higher while physician prices rose 0.9%.
EVT pleads guilty
Guidant Corp. subsidiary EndoVascular Technologies, Menlo Park, Calif., pleaded guilty to 10 felony counts and agreed to pay $92.4 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it covered up thousands of incidents in which a medical device used to treat aortic aneurysms malfunctioned. The U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco said the incidents involved 12 patient deaths and dozens of invasive surgeries. The 10 felony counts include nine for shipping misbranded products and one for making false statements to the Food and Drug Administration. The case represents the largest amount ever paid for failure to report device malfunctions to the FDA, and it's one of the first such cases involving a felony conviction, the U.S. attorney's office said. EVT and Guidant agreed to enter into a corporate integrity agreement with HHS' inspector general's office and said they will cooperate in the continuing investigation.
House to look into Medicaid
The House Energy and Commerce Committee told governors in all 50 states that it is investigating state Medicaid programs and asked for their cooperation. The investigation is in response to a General Accounting Office report in January that put Medicaid on the list of government programs at high risk for fraud and abuse. The investigation will center on three areas: schemes by states to get inappropriate federal matching funds; whether state Medicaid waivers cost the federal government more than they bring in; and how states are addressing fraud and abuse. States and the federal government spent $228 billion on Medicaid in 2001, and the final figure for 2002 is projected to be 14% higher.