Week in review: 11 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. Former CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner tapped to lead AHIP
Marilyn Tavenner, former CMS administrator, was selected Wednesday to serve as president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, whose members include Aetna, Anthem, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and many Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Ms. Tavenner will step into her new role Aug. 24. She succeeds Karen M. Ignagni, a former health policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, who has led the industry's lobbying arm for the more than two decades.

2. ProPublica launches Surgeon Scorecard outcomes database
ProPublica launched a Surgeon Scorecard, an online database allowing consumers to compare the performance of surgeons for common elective procedures. The Surgeon Scorecard is based on Medicare data from 2009 to 2013 released to ProPublica. A total of 16,827 surgeons are rated in ProPublica's analysis. The organization says its intent to provide a tool for consumers during conversations with physicians about potential operations.

3. Novant Health to lay off up to 400 employees
As part of a reorganization initiative launched last year, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health will lay off up to 400 employees systemwide, according to a Winston-Salem Journal report. Novant said the changes were necessary because of "declining reimbursements and many other challenges facing the healthcare industry today." 

4. Kaiser fires back against claims it prioritizes PR over medical care
The Courage Campaign Institute, the educational arm of California-based nonprofit group Courage Campaign, recently launched an ad campaign against Oakland, Calif. –based Kaiser Permanente, claiming the health system prioritizes its reputation over the needs of its mental health patients. Kaiser firmly denies those allegations and says the ads are "the latest tactics in a union smear campaign." On the same day CCI launched its ad campaign in Bay Area Rapid Transit trains during the week of June 25, Kaiser began running its own ads in the trains. The ads direct readers to a website Kaiser created that claims the National Union of Healthcare Workers is behind the smear campaign.

5. Barnabas Health, Robert Wood Johnson to merge
Robert Wood Johnson Health System, which has flagship hospitals in New Brunswick and Somerset, N.J., and Barnabas Health, based in Orange, N.J., signed a definitive agreement to merge, creating the largest health system in the state. The new health system will be called RWJ Barnabas Health, and will be comprised of 11 acute care hospitals, three children's hospitals, a pediatric rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral health center, ambulatory care centers and five fitness and wellness centers. Barnabas Health CEO Barry H. Ostrowsky will serve as the inaugural president and CEO the new system.

6. Physician receives 45-year sentence for administering chemotherapy to healthy patients
Farid Fata, MD, a hematologist-oncologist in Detroit, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for administering unnecessary chemotherapy to healthy patients to enable him to fraudulently bill Medicare and private payers for the treatment, according to the Department of Justice. Dr. Fata also admitted to soliciting kickbacks from home healthcare companies in exchange for his referral of patients to those facilities. He pleaded guilty to 13 counts of healthcare fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks and two counts of money laundering.

7. 3 top APA executives resign following scathing report
The American Psychological Association announced Tuesday three of its executives, including its CEO, will step down due to findings that senior officials aided the CIA's Bush-era terrorist interrogation program that involved torture, according to the New York Times. Stephen Behnke, PhD, the organization's ethics director, was also named in the report and was forced out July 8. A statement from Dr. Behnke's lawyer said the report is "a gross mischaracterization of his intentions, goals and actions," according to the article.

8. St. Elizabeth's to settle alleged HIPAA violation for $218,000
St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, Mass., agreed to pay $218,400 to settle an alleged HIPAA violation and to adopt a corrective action plan for its HIPAA compliance program. HHS' Office for Civil Rights began receiving complaints in November 2012 alleging employees at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center had been using an Internet-based document sharing application to store documents containing electronic protected health information of nearly 500 patients without analyzing the risks associated with the application. The OCR's investigation determined the hospital did not comply with rules to safeguard private patient information.

9. UPMC Health Plan breach compromises 722 members' information
Pittsburgh-based UPMC Health Plan reported a data breach after an email with sensitive member information was inadvertently sent to an unauthorized person, according to a Tribune-Review report. The payer is notifying 722 members of the breach, which occurred on June 4 and was reported to federal authorities July 2 after the health system investigated the breach. According to a statement from the health plan, the information in the email was meant to be sent to a physician's office but was instead sent to an incorrect email address.

10. Ebola recovery effort receives $3.4B at UN: 7 biggest pledges 
Roughly $3.4 billion in pledges were made recently at the United Nations to help Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea eradicate Ebola and begin rebuilding health systems and economies that were devastated by the outbreak, according to a Reuters report. The UN previously announced $3.2 billion was needed to support the three countries' national recovery plans for the next two years, and Liberia President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf estimated $4 billion was required to cover a separate sub-regional plan. Click here to read a list of the seven biggest pledges.

11. Amerinet now wholly owned by Intermountain
Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare acquired the St. Louis-based group purchasing organization Amerinet, according to a St. Louis Business Journal report. Previously, Administrative Resources held 50 percent ownership of Amerinet. However, ARI's portion of Amerinet was sold to Intermountain, which owned the other half of the company. The deal closed June 30.

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