Judge Rules Against Fetal Burial Law in Austin Courtroom

We have a conclusion to the fetal remains burial case, which I’ve been following in this space via updates from the Texas Tribune. The publication says Wednesday that a judge has struck down Senate Bill 8, which would’ve required healthcare providers to cremate or bury fetal remains. U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra cited logistical issues with the law. He also said that if instituted, it would represent “a violation of a woman’s right to obtain a legal abortion under the law as it stands today.” The ruling comes more than a month after the trial concluded. Here’s the Trib… Full Story

Reliant Rehab To Pay $6.1M After Settling Allegations It Paid Kickbacks

Plano-based Reliant Rehabilitation Holdings Inc. will pay the federal government $6.1 million to settle claims the company paid kickbacks to skilled nursing facilities and doctors. The Justice Department alleged Reliant, which is a massive national provider, violated the False Claims Act. The feds say Reliant hooked up clients with nurse practitioners on the cheap or on the free, and that the violations took place between April 1, 2013, and May 1, 2017. Reliant settled the claims without admitting wrongdoing. The case was heard in the Northern District of Texas. Here’s how a release from the Justice Department breaks it down:… Full Story

Tarrant County Commissioners Issue Bond Proposal To Fund More Than $1.2 Billion In JPS Upgrades

It’ll be up to Tarrant County voters to decide whether the JPS Health Network gets a host of facilities improvements including a new behavioral health hospital, new main hospital tower to include a level one trauma center, a new cancer center, four new regional health centers, and a new ambulatory surgical center. The total cost could be more than $1.2 billion, and the Tarrant County Commissioners are asking citizens to approve the issuance of a $800 million bond for the projects. The county says it can get them done without raising taxes. The bonds would be issued in several series… Full Story

MedPAC Recommendations Could Impact North Texas’ Dozens of Stand-alone ERs

In June, when the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission issued a two-pronged recommendation regarding stand-alone emergency departments, it pointed to one metropolitan area to illustrate growth in independent freestanding ERs: Dallas. From 2013 to 2017, the Dallas metro went from having 25 such facilities to 73. The entire U.S. has just 200. The recommendation issued by MedPAC calls for changes in the way Medicare bills stand-alone ERs and, to be clear, has nothing to do with independent freestanding ERs, which are not associated with a hospital and which the federal government doesn’t recognize. It has everything to do with stand-alone ERs… Full Story

Texas Tribune Runs Through Factors On States’ Side in Fight To Dismantle ACA

All arguments have been submitted in the case that pits Texas and 19 other states against the Affordable Care Act, according to the Texas Tribune. That means a federal judge, right here in North Texas, now holds the key to the healthcare law’s future. Experts say a ruling should come in the next few months, according to the Trib, which ran through several factors in Texas’ favor in a story this week: It’s not the first time Texas has sued over Obamacare, but this attempt has several weighty advantages. One comes from Congress, which in December shrunk the penalty for… Full Story

Pharma Company AstraZeneca To Pay Texas $110 Million Over Alleged Fraudulent Marketing

AstraZeneca agreed this week to pay the state of Texas $110 million to settle a pair of lawsuits in which the state accused the pharma giant of fraudulent marketing. The suits separately deal with the drugs Seroquel, which is an antipsychotic medication, and Crestor, to lower cholesterol. Texas claimed AstraZeneca marketed Seroquel to Texas Medicaid providers who treated children and adolescents—even though the drugs weren’t approved for use among that population—and made hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal payments to a couple former state hospital doctors to influence the drug’s use. The state claimed AstraZeneca similarly pushed beyond the… Full Story

Why Eye-popping Jury Awards—Within Healthcare and Other Industries—Aren’t Always What They Seem

I’d like to point you toward a story that ran in the July issue of D CEO and hit dmagazine.com late last week. It is Tom Korosec’s column about giant jury awards in civil cases and why they’re generally more bark than bite. Korosec lays out the circumstances of a couple medical-related jury awards that landed here in Dallas—the $73 million awarded to a woman who sued Boston Scientific Corp. and the $502 million awarded to a group of patients who sued Johnson & Johnson. Because of a Texas law, those awards are ultimately slashed to much more manageable payouts,… Full Story

Fetal Remains Burial Trial Concludes, But No Ruling Yet

A judge says he expects to rule at the end of August on Senate Bill 8, a Texas law that requires health providers to cremate or bury fetal remains, according to the Texas Tribune. The trial concluded on Friday, but U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra says he’s waiting on final written arguments, which are due Aug. 3. SB 8 followed a U.S. district judge’s determination in 2017 that reversed a Texas Department of State Health Services rule that had the same effect. Here’s the Trib: Throughout the five-day trial, a wave of patients, health providers, state agency officials, bioethicists,… Full Story

Audit Uncovers More Contracting Woes At Texas Health and Human Services Commission

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission continues to rack up scandals related to its contracting process. The most recent: a state audit of 28 procurements found errors in all 28. The state couldn’t confirm that the correct applicants were awarded in five cases totaling more than $3 billion. From the Texas Tribune: Auditors said Tuesday they found errors in the evaluation processes for all 28 procurements they examined, totaling $4.6 billion in state money. For five of those procurements, those errors were more extreme: “auditors identified significant evaluation scoring errors and missing documentation” in procuring contracts worth over $3… Full Story

Trial About Fetal Remains Burial and Cremation Kicks Off

In 2017, Texas legislators passed Senate Bill 8, requiring hospitals to bury or cremate fetal remains. Monday, a Federal courtroom in Austin played host to the opening day of a trial pitting state attorneys versus reproductive rights attorneys, as the Texas Tribune reports. A similar rule by the Texas Department of State Health Services was axed by a U.S. District Judge in 2017, prompting the legislation. The Trib sums up the opposition to such a rule: Abortion opponents have argued that the rule was a means to bring human dignity to the fetuses, while reproductive rights advocates said it was another… Full Story