Week in review: 10 biggest healthcare stories this week

Stay in the know with Becker's Hospital Review's weekly roundup of the nation's biggest healthcare news. Here's what you need to know this week.

1. Tax freeze could mean revenue melt: CBO sees potential $253B loss
Congress' 2,009-page omnibus spending deal froze three of the Affordable Care Act's revenue-generating taxes, which makes a small financial impact — for now. The immediate impact of the freeze is $24.4 billion. The law put the Health Insurance Tax on hold for one year, and the "Cadillac tax" and the medical device tax on hold for two years. The Congressional Budget Office said the Health Insurance Tax would have created $12 billion in revenue in 2017 if it were not delayed, according to The Wall Street Journal. As for the Cadillac tax on high-cost employer health plans, the CBO estimates the delay will cost $9 billion in revenue by the end of 2019. The medical device tax delay would come with a $3.4 billion price tag by the end of 2017, according to the report.

2. Sen. Blumenthal urges UnitedHealth Group CEO to reassess leaving ACA exchanges
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote a letter to UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley asking the insurer to reconsider departing from the ACA insurance exchanges, according to the Hartford Courant. Sen. Blumenthal called Mr. Hemsley's potential decision "shortsighted," stating in his letter, "This insurer has ... an ethical duty to stay with the marketplace while it stabilizes and achieves even more enrollees in the very near future."

3. New data shows experts were wrong about where healthcare costs less
Researchers analyzed the real prices hospitals negotiate with private insurers and found places that spend less on Medicare do not necessarily spend less on healthcare overall. The new "Big Data" project from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics shows that the prices hospitals negotiate with private health insurers vary significantly within and across geographic regions in the U.S.

4. Michael Jordan uses multimillion settlement to gift Chicago hospitals
Former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan kept his word to donate the net proceeds of an $8.9 million settlement against supermarkets Dominick's and Jewel-Osco to 23 Chicago nonprofits helping children, including the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Sinai Health System and La Rabida Children's Hospital, according to the Chicago Tribune.

5. Kaiser Permanente to open medical school in Southern California
Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente plans to open a medical school in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Times. Kaiser — whose annual revenue last year was $56.4 billion — is slowly releasing other details about the planned medical school. It will open in the fall of 2019 with an inaugural class of 50 students. The health system has yet to decide on a final location for the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine.

6. UW Medicine reaches $750,000 HIPAA settlement for 2013 breach
Seattle-based University of Washington Medicine agreed to settle potential HIPAA violation charges. The settlement includes a $750,000 payment, a corrective action plan and yearly reports on UW Medicine's HIPAA compliance efforts. In 2013, HHS' Office for Civil Rights launched an investigation into UW Medicine after the health system reported a data breach affecting approximately 90,000 individuals. The organization's IT system was compromised after a UW Medicine employee had downloaded an email attachment containing malicious malware.

7. 134 arrested during labor protest at Yale-New Haven Hospital
A protest over a lack of local jobs at Yale-New Haven (Conn.) Hospital led to 134 people being arrested on Saturday, according to a New Haven Register report. The demonstrators were demanding more local jobs at the hospital. New Haven Rising, a citywide grassroots organization that led the protest, said more local jobs could help relieve the jobs crisis in New Haven's "hardest hit" communities.

8. Louisiana hospital to close this month, aims to reopen in 2016
Iberia, La.-based Dauterive Hospital will close its doors before the New Year, but Iberia (La.) Medical Center will reopen the hospital in the spring of 2016. IMC signed a letter of intent to purchase 103-bed Dauterive Hospital in October and the deal was finalized Dec. 14. IMC will reopen Dauterive as Iberia Medical Center-North Campus. However, IMC needs approval from the Joint Commission and CMS before utilizing the facility.

9. Flint, Mich. Mayor declares state of emergency as amount of lead in children's blood skyrockets
Flint, Mich., Mayor Karen Weaver, PhD, declared a state of emergency in the city Dec. 14 due to a "manmade disaster" that has resulted in a number of children in the city experiencing dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. The disaster Dr. Weaver referred to was the 2014 switch from using the Detroit water system as the city's primary source of water to water from the Flint River. Almost immediately after this switch took place, residents began expressing concerns about water quality, including a foul odor and cloudy appearance, according to The Washington Post.

10. Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO arrested on fraud charges
Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, has been taken into custody by the FBI on charges of securities and wire fraud for allegedly illegally taking stock from Retrophin, a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, according to Bloomberg. According to an unsealed indictment, Brooklyn federal prosecutors have accused Mr. Shkreli of misleading prospective investors in MSMB Capital Management while he was acting as manager for the hedge fund. Mr. Shkreli allegedly misled prospective investors about the fund's assets under management and his prior performance as manager to get them to invest, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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