The CMS proposed 10 mostly process-oriented quality measures and is seeking comment on another 30 that hospital outpatient departments must report on beginning next year or face a financial penalty. In its proposed Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule, the CMS said that it would require outpatient departments to report on quality data starting Jan. 8, 2008, or otherwise be penalized with a 2% pay cut. More measures are expected over the next couple of years, the CMS said. In the short term, the first five measures deal closely with outpatient care in the emergency department, focusing almost exclusively on adult heart-attack patients. In addition to those, the CMS proposed five more measures, including one related to the treatment of heart failure, two that relate to surgical-care improvement, one that addresses treatment of community-acquired pneumonia and another that relates to diabetes care. The CMS expects to release the final specifications later this fall.
Louisiana State University agreed to pay $190,000 to Donald Smithburg, who served as head of LSUs Health Care Services Division from 2004 until earlier this summer, to avoid the cost of future litigation concerning Smithburgs employment. About 70% of the sumwhich Smithburg said reflects about half of his annual salaryrelates to compensation, while the remainder is for other claims, the settlement said. In August 2006, LSU notified Smithburg that his employment would end on Aug. 30, 2007. He was reassigned elsewhere within the system earlier this summer. Saying that the settlement completely exonerated me, Smithburg, 46, declined to comment on earlier reports that he had received cash advances from an LSU business credit card. Although he referred to his recent experience at LSU as an unfortunate, intense political situation, Smithburg said he would not change a thing in terms of what we did. He started a new job last week as senior director with Phase 2 Consulting, Austin, Texas. LSU said the situation was an internal matter and referred to the settlement agreement as its only official comment, according to an LSU spokesman. Smithburg was named a Modern Healthcare Up & Comer in 1995.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) expanded his investigation into HHS officials pressuring the surgeon generals office to include questions involving similar behavior from political appointees toward scientists and researchers at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In July, Kennedy, who serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt asking for a long list of documents after former Surgeon General Richard Carmona testified about political pressure from the department when he served from 2002 to 2006 (July 16, p. 4). Kennedy has followed his July correspondence with another letter to Leavitt that said the documents showed HHS officials sought to censor and suppress various projects of the surgeon general and promote the Bush administrations agenda. Kennedy has asked HHS to send additional documentsconcerning the surgeon generals office, the NIH and the CDCto the Senate HELP committee by Sept. 13.
Apollo Health Street acquired Zavata, an Atlanta-based business-process outsourcing company in a $170 million deal completed Aug. 29. The move leaves the Bloomfield, N.J.-based healthcare outsourcing-solutions company with more than 2,500 employees across India and the U.S. The acquisition allows Apollo Health to add a new set of services, including areas of full business office and emergency medical transport billing, executives said in a news release announcing the purchase. Apollo Health offers outsourcing and information technology services to healthcare providers, payers and technology companies. Zavata in the past several years had been on an acquisition march of its own, merging or buying companies to grow its base of healthcare outsourcing services. An investment group led by the companys chairman and chief executive officer, Satish Sanan, raised about $40 million to fuel Zavatas strategic growth.
Boston Scientific Corp., Natick, Mass., agreed to pay $16.75 million to settle a lawsuit filed by 35 states and the District of Columbia against the companys wholly owned subsidiary Guidant Corp., now known as Boston Scientific Cardiac Rhythm Management. The lawsuit, filed in September 2005, alleged that Guidant continued to market a popular defibrillator even after company officials learned about a flaw that could prompt some devices to send an unnecessary, life-threatening shock to recipients hearts. Under the terms of the settlement, the money will be used by states to cover legal fees, enforce consumer-protection laws and set up consumer health-education programs. Boston Scientific will admit no liability, but it will extend a supplemental warranty on the pacemakers an additional six months and implement recommendations made by an independent panel in 2005. Boston Scientific inherited the lawsuit when it purchased Guidant in April 2006. In July, the company agreed to pay $195 million to settle claims made by approximately 4,000 patients who received the defibrillators.
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