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News

Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Determining if Drug Price Increases are Justified
Court Overturns CMS' Site-Neutral Payment Policy
Pulmonary Disease Linked to Vaping
CEO Compensation-One Reason Healthcare Costs So Much
Doctor or Money Shortage in California?
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Resigns
Physicians Generate an Average $2.4 Million a Year Per Hospital
Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
   Incomes
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit

 

For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.

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Entries in Health and Human Services (2)

Tuesday
Nov142017

Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary

President Trump on Monday announced Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, as his choice to succeed Dr. Tom Price as secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) (1). HHS is an 80,000-employee federal agency that oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Price resigned in September following reports of his extensive use of government and charter air travel.

Azar, a lawyer, formerly headed Eli Lilly & Co.'s U.S. division. Before that, he served as HHS general counsel and deputy secretary during the George W. Bush administration. During that stint, he received praise for his management competence. Azar "will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!" Trump tweeted.

Andy Slavitt, CMS administrator under the Obama administration, also a lawyer and former United Healthcare executive, offered cautious praise for Azar. "I have reason to hope he would make a good HHS secretary," Slavitt said in a written statement. "He ... has real-world experience enough to be pragmatic, and will hopefully avoid repeating the mistakes of his predecessor in over-politicizing Americans' access to healthcare."

If confirmed, Azar would inherit an agency currently torn by political and policy divisions in the wake of Price's departure (2). He will have to make key decisions to avoid further disruption in the individual health insurance market; how much leeway to give states to make big changes in their Medicaid expansion program; and face pressure to address rising prescription drug costs. One management issue Azar would quickly face is how to deal with Price's ambitious Reimagine HHS initiative to streamline the department's operations and with the White House’s proposal to slash the HHS' budget for 2018 by 18%.

Azar has been a sharp critic of the Affordable Care Act, saying in May that the ACA is "fundamentally broken" and "circling the drain." In June, he envisioned the Trump administration shifting the ACA in a more conservative direction even without repeal and replacement of the law. He also has opposed reducing prescription drug prices or allowing purchasing drugs from other countries where prices are lower.

If confirmed, Azar will represent a return to the recent tradition of selecting Secretaries of HHS with no medical background. Before, Price, only Dr. Otis Bowen (1985-9) and Dr. Louis Sullivan (1989-93) were physicians of the 11 non-interim Secretaries.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Meyer H. Can Trump's pick to lead HHS navigate the churning political waters of healthcare? Modern Healthcare. November 13, 2017. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20171113/NEWS/171119968?utm_source=modernhealthcare&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20171113-NEWS-171119968&utm_campaign=am (accessed 11/14/17).
  2. Pradhan R, Diamond D. Price investigation continues to roil HHS. Politico. November 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/13/tom-price-private-jets-probe-hhs-244793 (accessed 11/14/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Trump nominates former pharmaceutical executive as HHS secretary. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;15(5):221-2. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc140-17 PDF

Thursday
Feb272014

Banner Prints Social Security Numbers

The Monday edition of the Arizona Republic contained a story with potential interest to our readers. On the most recent address labels of Banner Health's magazine, Smart & Healthy, the addressee's Social Security or Medicare identification numbers, which are often identical to their Social Security numbers (1). The magazine was mailed to more than 50,000 recipients in Arizona late last week.

The recipients are members of the Medicare Pioneer Accountable Care Organization, a government health-care plan that Banner serves. Banner generated its mailing list from information it received from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) responsible for administration of several federal health-care programs.

Although medical information has been protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) since 1996, penalties were recently increased. Civil monetary penalties were increased from a maximum of $100 to $50,000 per violation and the maximum aggregate increased from $25,000 for each violation to $1,500,000 per year. If multiple violations occur the penalties could exceed $1,500,000. Reflecting the increase in penalties, HHS fined BlueCross Blue Shield (BC&BS) of Tennessee $1.5 million in a case involving a breach that affected more than 1 million individuals (2). Locally, HHS fined a Phoenix cardiac surgery group $100,000 for posting patients' appointment information on an internet calendar that was available to the public (2).

Officials at HHS and Social Security Administration are looking into the matter (1). The $100,000 fine of the physician group in Arizona is likely a fairly sizable portion of their revenue. In contrast, the $1.5 million penalty paid by Tennessee BC&BS is less than 0.03% of their $5.6 billion revenue (3). Banner had total revenues of $4.9 billion and assets of $7.6 billion in 2012.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

References

  1. Giblin P. Medicare IDs erroneously published. Arizona Republic. Available at: http://www.azcentral.com/news/arizona/articles/20140224medicare-ids-erroneously-published.html (accessed 2/27/14).
  2. Anderson H. Arizona practice gets $100k HIPAA fine. Available at: http://www.govinfosecurity.com/arizona-practice-gets-100k-hipaa-fine-a-4686 (accessed 2/27/14).
  3. Flessner D. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee earns record $221 million. Chattanooga Times Free Press Available at: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2013/apr/30/bluecross-earns-record-221-million/?business (accessed 2/27/14).
  4. Ernst & Young. Banner Health Consolidated Financial Statements. Available at: https://www.bannerhealth.com/NR/rdonlyres/DD3E9650-00D6-4385-B12B-E96BBC4E9917/67703/_BannerHealthconsolidated201211_Final.pdf (accessed 2/27/14).

Reference as: Robbins RA. Banner prints social security numbers. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(2):140-1. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc027-14 PDF