HIGH-RANKING STATE HEALTH OFFICIAL TO DEPART: Doug Elwell is stepping down next week as director of medical programs at the Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services (HFS), the longtime health care executive told Crain’s. During his year at HFS Elwell oversaw the Medicaid program and was involved in the pending merger of four struggling hospitals on Chicago’s South Side.
“It has been one of the most professionally fulfilling years of my career,” Elwell said, noting that the plan always was to stay for about a year.
STERICYCLE SELLING PART OF ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS BUSINESS: Medical waste solutions company Stericycle said it will sell its domestic environmental solutions business, excluding its health care customer and unused consumer pharmaceutical take-back services, to Harsco for $462.5 million in cash. Camp Hill, Pa.-based Harsco will get Stericycle’s manufacturing and industrial environmental solutions business and the retail portion of Stericycle's hazardous waste services, Bannockburn-based Stericycle said. The operations employ about 2,000 people across 61 facilities. The transaction will not affect the operations of Stericycle’s regulated medical waste and secure information destruction businesses, the company said in a statement.
"The sale of the Domestic Environmental Solutions business demonstrates important progress in our transformation as we improve margin percentages, reduce debt, enhance our balance sheet flexibility, and drive long-term shareholder value,” Stericycle CEO Cindy J. Miller said in the statement.
Stericycle also said it completed the sale of its operations in Chile in December to an affiliate of Veolia for about $30.7 million, marking Stericycle's fifth divestiture last year. In addition to the Chile operations, the company said that last year it sold a texting business based in the United Kingdom, a telephone answering services business in North America, a pharmaceutical returns business, and substantially all its operations in Mexico.
AMA WORKS AGAINST EXPANDING PRACTITIONER ROLES: As state lawmakers consider giving advanced practice practitioners (APPs) more autonomy, some physicians, and the Chicago-based American Medical Association, are digging in to defend their turf, Modern Healthcare reports.
Legislatures in Ohio, Kansas and other states are reviewing bills that would remove the requirement that doctors must sign off on prescriptions before advanced practice registered nurses prescribe them. The AMA has continued to oppose expanding APPs' scope of practice, saying APPs cannot match physicians' education, training and expertise.
The debate underscores a longstanding disagreement pinned on patient safety. Nurses point to a number of studies that found, at worst, no significant difference in care quality between APPs and physicians.
A Feb. 6 statement from the Park Ridge-based American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) lauds the flurry of state legislative action around advanced practice nursing roles, saying laws that expand nurses' responsibilities modernize the role nursing plays in health care.
"This kind of legislation is indicative of a rapid change in the way health care needs are met compared to five to 10 years ago," AANA CEO Randall Moore said in the statement. "With an aging and growing population, our nation's health care system needs providers to deliver high quality care to patients while keeping costs down."
PALOS HEALTH BUILDING MOKENA FACILITY: Southwest suburban system Palos Health said it will begin construction on a three-story, nearly 50,000-square-foot medical building to house immediate care, imaging services and primary and specialty care clinics in Mokena. The project is expected to be complete in spring 2021.
AREA CORONAVIRUS COUPLE DISCHARGED FROM HOSPITAL: A Chicago-area couple in their 60s infected with the coronavirus were discharged from a suburban hospital, an Amita Health spokeswoman said via email. The two were discharged together to their home after treatment at Amita Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, according to the spokeswoman. They will complete a period of home isolation and continue to be monitored by the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health has emphasized that the coronavirus risk to the general public remains low. The health department reports that as of Feb. 7, 49 people have been tested for the coronavirus in Illinois and only the couple who were treated at St. Alexius have been confirmed as having the virus. Results are pending for 21 patients under investigation and there have been 26 negative results, according to an IDPH website.
Nationwide, the CDC reports, there have been 12 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. As of Feb. 7, a total of 337 patients under investigation have been tested, with 225 negative results and 100 test results pending.
CORONAVIRUS EXPECTED TO STABILIZE IN APRIL: A projection from S&P Global Ratings predicts the novel coronavirus will stabilize in April, with a worst-case scenario having the virus spreading into late May, Crain's New York Business reported. The firm said the impact on economic activity in Asia could peak around the middle of the year before an economic rebound in 2021. READ MORE.
CHICAGO-BASED SOCIAL SERVICE REFERRER PARTNERS WITH NYC HOSPITALS: NowPow, a Chicago-based social service directory and referral platform, will be part of two New York City Health+Hospitals programs to address food and housing insecurities among the Health+Hospitals’ patients, Health Pulse New York reports.
NowPow's founder, Dr. Stacy Lindau, said it's promising to see that 26 community-based organizations have signed on to digitally receive referrals. Having the right data and technology behind work to address social determinants of health is critically important for the health care industry, Lindau said.
The two programs—the Food and Nutrition Service Networks and Housing Navigation Network—will connect patients to services that have traditionally been fragmented and difficult to navigate.
BIPARTISAN SURPRISE-BILLING PROPOSAL RELEASED: Leaders of the House Ways & Means Committee released bipartisan legislation Feb. 7 to ban hospitals from balance billing their patients. This new proposal does not use benchmark payment rates to determine hospitals' the out-of-network reimbursement rates; instead it relies on negotiations between hospitals and insurers, and mediation. Previous proposals that sought to use benchmark payments drew the ire of hospitals and specialty physician groups, Modern Healthcare reports.
The Ways & Means Committee is the second of three House committees that plan to weigh in on the issue of surprise medical billing, and a markup on the legislation is planned for Feb. 12. A one-page summary of the legislation that was released in December contributed to derailing a bipartisan, bicameral proposal negotiated by leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the Senate health committee.
"Our bipartisan approach differs from other proposals in that we require—for the first time—that patients receive a true and honest bill in advance of scheduled procedures and we create a more balanced negotiation process to encourage all parties to resolve their reimbursement differences before using the streamlined and fair dispute resolution process," House Ways & Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said in a statement.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE:
• Glenda Oakley was named chief financial officer at Chicago-based Easterseals. Oakley was most recently executive director and regional chief financial officer at Aetna Medicaid Illinois.