The Federal Trade Commission charged several groups representing more than 2,900 Chicago-area physicians with price fixing and refusing to deal with certain health plans except on collectively determined terms. According to the FTC complaint, the actions of Advocate Health Partners and other parties restrained competition in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. A consent order settling the FTC charges will prohibit the respondents from engaging in such anti-competitive conduct in the future. The commission is seeking public comment on the proposed order until Jan. 30 after which it will decide whether to make it final. The agreement grants AHP (Advocate) permission to continue joint contracting on behalf of 2,900 physicians, which we sought as part of this settlement, an Advocate spokesman said in an e-mailed response.
Routine use of five simple, evidence-based interventions essentially eliminated catheter-related bloodstream infections in 103 intensive-care units at 67 hospitals over an 18-month period, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The interventions were: the washing of hands; using full-barrier precautions during insertion of central venous catheters; cleansing the catheter insertion site with chlorhexidine; avoiding femoral vein catheter sites; and removing unnecessary catheters. The median infection rate at participating hospitals was zero during each quarter of the study, said Peter Pronovost, the reports lead author and a professor of anesthesiology and critical-care medicine at Johns Hopkins University. There were no new costs for this program. There was no new staff or no new technology. It was pretty basic stuff, Pronovost said. The participating hospitals were located predominantly in Michigan, and the study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Michigan Health and Hospital Associations Keystone Center for Patient Safety & Quality.
Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Greenville, N.C., passed an inspection completed Dec. 28 that allows it to continue participating in federal healthcare programs, the 755-bed hospital said. The hospitals participation was jeopardized last year when a patient received incompatible blood products, a mistake that was reported to the patients family and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which then reported the error to the CMS. On an unannounced visit in early December, state inspectors found an immediate jeopardy violation. Subsequently, the CMS accepted the hospitals plan of correction, and the state inspectors confirmed that it was being followed with last weeks two-day inspection. A spokeswoman for the CMS regional office in Atlanta confirmed that the hospital passed an inspection last week, but the spokeswoman couldnt provide other details.
Drug distributor Cardinal Health announced an $11 million settlement to resolve an investigation being conducted by the office of Eliot Spitzer, the New York state attorney general. Spitzer has been investigating distributors practice of buying and selling prescription pharmaceuticals on the secondary market, which is among other distributors or wholesalers after they are purchased from the manufacturers but before they are sold to pharmacies or hospitals. Spitzers office subpoenaed Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal; McKesson Corp., San Francisco; and AmerisourceBergen Corp., Chesterbrook, Pa., in April 2005 and said the investigation into the industry practice will continue. He said the practice isnt illegal but can create opportunities for the introduction of unreliable drugs, including counterfeits, into the marketplace. Under the agreement, Cardinal has adopted a set of safe product practices that doesnt allow it to trade drugs that have been sold more than three times, and it can purchase pharmaceuticals only from authorized distributors of the manufacturer or wholesalers that have adopted the same practices. Cardinal didnt admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.
Florida physician Clark Mitchell pleaded guilty to participating in a securities fraud scheme with Mutual Benefits Corp. that robbed investors of $956 million and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. According to the U.S. attorneys office for the Southern District of Florida, Mutual Benefits principals induced investors to purchase interests in the life-insurance-policy death benefits of terminally ill or elderly people in return for a lump-sum cash payment. Mitchell also pleaded guilty to inflating Medicare bills by more than $500,000 while he was director of an AIDS clinic.
The California Medical Association has asked to join a class-action lawsuit filed by the states hospitals accusing Blue Cross of California of routinely violating state law by retroactively canceling sick patients insurance policies to avoid paying costly medical claims. The request, made in Los Angeles County Superior Court, came a week after lawyers representing the hospitals filed a motion to merge their lawsuit, originally filed in October, with a similar class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of patients against Blue Cross.
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, will help develop a cancer treatment clinic in Albuquerque in partnership with Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Albuquerque. The clinic will be located within 46-bed Presbyterian Kaseman Hospital. Presbyterian will invest $3.5 million to build and equip the clinic. It is expected to open in April and handle 18 to 35 patients a day. M.D. Anderson will recruit and hire a radiation oncologist to provide treatment there, while 10 Presbyterian employees will become M.D. Anderson employees to staff the clinic.
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