Modern Healthcare

It’s time to see who’s been naughty and who’s been nice in 2019


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.

So who’s been naughty?

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 HHS Secretary Alex Azar and 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 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. ●

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