As 2019 winds down and the holiday season descends, Outliers has been checking its list, pondering who’s been naughty and who’s been nice during a hectic year for healthcare news.
Healthcare's naughty and nice list for 2019
The Sackler family and the company it owns, OxyContin marketer Purdue Pharma, faced a wave of lawsuits over their role in the opioid addiction crisis. The backlash extended to their philanthropic efforts, with the latest being Tufts University erasing the family’s name from all programs and buildings at its Boston medical campus.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma and HHS Secretary Alex Azar apparently just can’t get along. The New York Times reported the White House is assessing whether the feuding duo can still work together. Verma also gets a callout for her penchant for expensive contracts for personal PR and seeking $47,000 in reimbursement from taxpayers after items were stolen during a work trip, including $43,000 for jewelry and $325 for moisturizer, per Politico.
As tantalizing as their flavors may be, e-cigarette manufacturers are on the naughty list. As of Dec. 10, there have been more than 2,400 cases of vaping-related hospitalizations, with 52 deaths.
Electronic health records were officially designated as naughty by physicians, who gave the software category an F for usability in an industry survey.
Optum found itself on the naughty list after it was discovered that a widely used algorithm it sold assigned healthier white patients the same risk score as black patients with poorer lab results.
A naughty trend in the industry was hospitals and health systems aggressively going after poor patients (who were often employees) for unpaid bills, including taking them to court.
It wasn’t a good year for advertising company Outcome Health, with six former employees charged in a nearly $1 billion fraud scheme. Former VP Ashik Desai has pleaded guilty.
Rennova Health earned its way on the list after the CMS revoked the Medicare billing privileges for its Jamestown, Tenn., hospital. Local government leaders say the closure endangers residents.
Apple seems to be the only tech giant entering healthcare without enduring a privacy backlash. Apple’s Health Records, ResearchKit and other offerings all require patient consent.
The Trump administration won nice points by pledging to end the HIV epidemic over the next 10 years. But (and you know there’s a but, right?) it also earned some naughty points by proposing safety-net budget cuts and changes to the Affordable Care Act’s protections for LGBTQ individuals that would make it less likely to meet the goal of reducing new HIV infections by 90% by 2030.
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine and University of Arizona College of Medicine were very nice to announce they’ll start offering free tuition.
Maine and Virginia implemented their Medicaid expansion, earning nice points from some uninsured residents if not GOP lawmakers.
And the CMS’ Verma scored on the good list for pushing value-based payments, transparency and interoperability standards, despite industry pushback and foot-dragging.
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