Healthcare Roundup—Record high opioid deaths in 2017; Pennsylvania post-acute care hospital operator settles kickback case

Deaths in the U.S. from drug overdoses reached a record high of 72,000 last year. (Moussa81)

Drug overdose deaths reached record high in 2017

Deaths in the U.S. from drug overdoses reached a record high of 72,000 last year. 

That is a rise of about 10%, according to a preliminary estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the New York Times reported, that's higher than the peak yearly death tolls from HIV, car crashes or gun deaths.

In a bit of positive news, officials pointed out that in parts of New England, the number of overdoses began to fall, including in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island. However, despite efforts to curb the opioid epidemic, the death toll nationwide has doubled over the last decade. (New York Times

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Pennsylvania-based post-acute care hospital operator settles $13.2M kickback case

Pennsylvania-based Post Acute Medical, a multistate operator of long-term care and rehabilitation hospitals, settled allegations of kickbacks and improper physician relationships for more than $13 million. 

According to the Justice Department, PAM violated the Anti-Kickback statute and Physician Self-Referral Law, commonly known as the Stark Law, by entering into physician-services contracts on behalf of its hospitals. Justice Department officials said in a statement that the payments under these contracts were "ostensibly to retain physicians as medical directors" and in other administrative roles. But they allege the payments were meant to induce the doctors to refer patients to its facilities. 

They also allege that the company entered "reciprocal referral relationships" with healthcare providers such as home health companies, referring patients to those providers if those providers referred other patients to PAM.

Under the settlement, PAM will pay about $13 million to the U.S. government, $114,016 to Texas, and $22,482 to Louisiana. The whistleblower in the case, Douglas Johnson, will receive $2,345,670 as his share of the federal government’s recovery in this case. (Release)

Spectrum Health launches commercialization arm

The investment arm of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Spectrum Health launched a new division focused on commercialization.

Spectrum Health Ventures will be organized into two focus areas. The first, Spectrum Health Velocity, will continue focusing on the kinds of long-term investments established by Spectrum Health Ventures. The new commercialization division, called the Enterprise Development and Commercialization Group, will represent a more active role for Spectrum Health involving investments in companies and joint ventures where the health system might have a board seat, leverage investment, and engage in business plan development and senior leadership identification, officials said.

Revenue from those efforts would be reinvested, officials said. Spectrum executive Roger Jansen, Ph.D., was promoted to president of Spectrum Health Ventures. (Release

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