The quality of U.S. healthcare could be much better despite recent improvements, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Nevertheless, providers have made improvements at a steady rate in recent years on 42 key performance measures, AHRQ said in its fourth annual report on quality. The 2006 report showed a 3.1% improvement in healthcare quality overall based on the indicators, and hospitals achieved a 7.8% improvement. Nursing homes lagged behind other sectorsboosting their quality scores 1%while ambulatory-care providers made a gain of 3.2%. AHRQ said it used the latest data available from a variety of sources.
The House voted 255-170 to require HHS to negotiate with drugmakers over prices for prescription drugs covered by Medicare Part D. The bill, sponsored primarily by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), also requires HHS to report to Congress by June 1 and every six months after on the results of negotiations. A similar bill is pending in the Senate, although it requires negotiations only when there is no competition for a drug, the drug was created with substantial taxpayer support or a Part D plan requests help. The Senate is expected to take longer to consider the matter than the House. President Bush has said he will veto legislation that requires negotiations. Under the law that created the Part D benefit, the federal government is prohibited from directly negotiating with drugmakers. Instead, private insurers that offer the benefit or pharmacy benefit managers negotiate for price discounts.
Ronald Hollander submitted his resignation as president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Hospital Association after a closed-door executive session of the board of trustees. Hollander, 56, who will leave at the end of the month, worked at the association for 25 years, including nearly 12 years in the top spot. In a written statement, Hollander said he was proud of the accomplishments during his tenure. He said he plans to seek new opportunities to work for a mission-driven enterprise. I will maintain my core interest in public policy that improves lives and communities. He thanked the MHA board for the opportunity to serve as CEO and wished the board luck in its search for the associations next leader. MHA Senior Vice President for Government Advocacy Robert Gibbons will serve as the groups interim president and CEO.
The American College of Healthcare Executives named Lt. Col. Jessie Tucker III as the 2007 Robert S. Hudgens Memorial Award Winner for young healthcare executive of the year. The ACHE named two Gold Medal Award winners for career service: Jack Bovender, chairman and chief executive officer of HCA, Nashville, and Diane Peterson, president of D. Peterson and Associates, Houston. The awards will be presented March 19 in New Orleans at the ACHE annual meeting. Tucker, 37, is the former commander of Fox Army Health Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., and incoming chief of staff at the Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, N.C. Bovender, 61, also is a former ACHE governor. Peterson, 57, was the second woman to be ACHE chair and has served on the governing boards of the Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management and Owen Healthcare Corp., Houston.
The former controller of the Federation of American Hospitals pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $377,000 from the lobbying and trade association of for-profit hospitals. Doug Mairena, 40, of Falls Church, Va., faces up to 30 months in prison at an April 10 hearing before a federal judge in Washington, where the federation is headquartered. In a news release, the federations senior vice president and general counsel, Jeffrey Micklos, said, We had an unfortunate situation involving an abuse of trust. The matter was identified internally, reported immediately to our board, and corrective action was taken. In his guilty plea Mairena admitted to embezzling the money between 2003 and 2005, when he left the federation to join the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts. He left that group in December. Mark Freeman, 43, a former executive assistant to the federations chief financial officer, also pleaded guilty to embezzlement in October 2006 for a related role in the matter. He awaits a March 20 hearing.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge granted final approval to a settlement covering more than 780,000 uninsured patients at all of Catholic Healthcare Wests hospitals. The settlement resolves class-action claims regarding the hospitals pricing and collections practices. CHW denied wrongdoing and liability in the settlement. Plaintiffs attorneys estimated the value of its benefits at about
$423 million. However, CHW officials said in a statement that the settlement amount was a hypothetical figure that incorrectly assumed that 100% of uninsured patients paid their bills in full and filed a claim.
HealthSouth Corp., Birmingham, Ala., said it received the final court approval necessary to settle class-action and derivative litigation stemming from a multibillion-dollar accounting fraud at the company. U.S. District Court in Birmingham and Jefferson County (Ala.) Circuit Court approved the definitive agreements, which were announced in September 2006. Under the settlements, eligible shareholders will receive a total of up to $215 million in HealthSouth common stock and warrants and $230 million in cash payments from the companys insurance carriers. Eligible shareholders also will receive 25% of net recoveries from selected future judgments obtained by or on behalf of HealthSouth. In settling the litigation, HealthSouth didnt admit wrongdoing.
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