In a move that angered some, the CMS revealed that critical-access hospitalsthe often-rural facilities with 25 or fewer inpatient bedswould be excluded from a national quality reporting initiative that ties participation to Medicare reimbursement. Under the terms of the Hospital Outpatient Quality Data Reporting Program, hospital outpatient departments are required to report on seven clinical measures beginning in April. While voluntary, those hospitals that dont participate are automatically docked 2% of their annual outpatient update starting in 2009. Tim Size, executive director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, railed against the CMS decision, saying that it sends the wrong message to those hospitals within the rural health community. Its basically them saying that rural hospitals and rural health dont matter. One obstacle to participation, however, could be that critical-access hospitals are paid based on costs rather than on the inpatient or outpatient prospective payment systems.
New Yorks United Hospital Fund and the Greater New York Hospital Association are partnering on a multiyear, multipronged initiative to improve the quality of patient care and safety in hospitals throughout the region. The effort is being funded in part by a new two-year $500,000 grant from the fund to the GNYHA Foundation. More than 60 out of approximately 100 hospitals currently participate in one or more multihospital collaborative efforts led by the GNYHA and the fund. That includes one to reduce central-line associated bacteremia, and another to prevent in-hospital cardiac arrests. This time the two organizations are taking on the perinatal setting, tackling patient safety. They also plan to attack a life-threatening healthcare-acquired infection called Clostridium difficile. (Some argue that infections can increase profit for a hospital in some cases. See related Cover Story, p. 6).
Former HCA executive Charles Evans, 60, was nominated as the 2008-09 chairman-elect of the American College of Healthcare Executives. If elected in March, he will succeed U.S. Army Brig. Gen. David Rubenstein as chairman-elect. Evans is president and chief executive officer of International Health Services Group based in Alpharetta, Ga. Rubenstein will begin a one-year term as ACHE chairman, succeeding Alyson Pitman Giles, president and CEO of CMC Healthcare System and Catholic Medical Center, Manchester, N.H.
HealthSouth Corp., Birmingham, Ala., agreed to pay $14.2 million to settle allegations the companys facilities engaged in illegal kickback and referral arrangements with physicians, the U.S. Justice Department announced. Specifically, the settlement involves claims HealthSouth submitted to Medicare and Medicaid for patients referred by two Birmingham orthopedic surgeons, James Andrews and Lawrence Lemak, who in separate agreements will pay a combined $700,000 to resolve their liability. HealthSouths settlement, which does not concede any illegal conduct, also addresses alleged improper financial relationships with other physicians, whom the government continues to investigate, the Justice Department said. The problems were uncovered in an internal investigation in 2004 and 2005 after new management took over after the departure of former Chief Executive Officer Richard Scrushy. The company disclosed the settlement payment to investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission in its third-quarter financial report.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island agreed to pay $20 million and submit to a federal monitor to avoid being prosecuted for the conduct of former executives who the insurer concedes steered $550,000 of its money to companies connected to elected officials. The company was never charged and will not be as long as it satisfies the terms of the agreement, which also calls for cooperation in the governments ongoing investigation of public corruption in the Rhode Island Statehouse, U.S. Attorney Robert Corrente said in a news conference in Providence. Two senior vice presidents and two lobbyists for the insurer terminated their employment with the company Dec. 11, Blues spokeswoman Kim Keough confirmed. She declined to say whether their departure was related to the agreement. Since 2004, the company has overhauled its management, board structure, code of conduct and monitoring system, according to a news release.
The Senate confirmed by unanimous consent James Peake, a former Army surgeon general, as Veterans Affairs Department secretary on Dec. 14. Retired Lt. Gen. Peake, 63, has spent 40 years in military medicine. He retired from the Army in 2004 after being lead commander in several medical posts, including four years as Army surgeon general. President Bush said one of Peakes first tasks would be to continue to implement recommendations of the presidential commission on veterans care chaired by former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), and former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala. Widely supported by both Democrats and Republicans, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee endorsed his nomination unanimously earlier last week.
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