Reuters reports on the status call held yesterday in the Justice Department’s lawsuits to block the Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna mergers:

 Aetna and Humana urged [Federal District Judge John] Bates this week to hold trials and issue an opinion by the end of 2016. Bates said in a pre-trial hearing on Thursday that was unlikely to happen.

“That’s my determination: that I can’t do both (by the end of the year),” he said. “Unless the schedule is put off, I’m sending one of the cases back.” Bates declined to say which would be sent for reassignment.

Christopher Curran, a lawyer representing Anthem, said at the hearing that the failure to get a favorable ruling by year-end would doom the deal because Cigna would not agree to an extension.

“We’re in this pickle through no fault of our own,” he said, noting that the Justice Department had taken a year to decide whether it would file a complaint to stop the merger.

John Majoras, the lawyer representing Aetna, pushed at the hearing for a fall trial. He argued that his client’s deal had been announced first and was simpler.


Here are several end of the week tidbits:

  • OCR took another scalp yesterday.  Healthcare IT News reports that “After multiple potential HIPAA violations involving electronic protected health information, Illinois-based Advocate Health Care Network has settled with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights for $5.55 million.” That’s OCR’s largest single recovery. 
  • Tammy Flanagan reports on a recent research study of federal employees principally on retirement issues.
  • Prof. Timothy Jost informs us about a newly proposed IRS rule concerning the complicated IRC 6055 / Form 1095B report process that health plans, including FEHB plans, must follow. 
  • Kaiser Health News give us the latest on HHS’s program to penalize hospitals for purportedly unnecessary readmissions:

The federal government’s readmission penalties on hospitals will reach a new high as Medicare withholds more than half a billion dollars in payments over the next year, records released Tuesday show.  The government will punish more than half of the nation’s hospitals — a total of 2,597 — having more patients than expected return within a month. While that is about the same number penalized last year, the average penalty will increase by a fifth, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.

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