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Hiltzik: Citing COVID, the hospital company reneged on a legal agreement

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Hiltzik: Citing COVID, the hospital company reneged on a legal agreement

Here are a few points about the giant Sutter Health hospital chain that cannot be denied.

First, the completion of the landmark reached in December with the California Atty. General Xavier Becerra will hit him in the wallet, difficult, because the deal includes a $ 575 million financial penalty among other expensive features.

Second, the coronavirus crisis has destroyed Sutter’s bottom line – as do many hospitals and other health service chains.

The plaintiff will not renegotiate the settlement agreement.

California Deputy Atty. General Emilio Varanini

Sutter is now trying to exploit the second point to damage the first. He has asked the judge who oversees the settlement to postpone the final approval of the agreement, hinting strongly that he wanted to rewrite the agreed key elements.

Becerra has answered, basically: There are no dice. “The plaintiff will not renegotiate the settlement agreement,” Deputy Atty. General Emilio Varanini told the San Francisco High Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo at the May 29 hearing.

That is encouraging. The truth is that, although Sutter has no doubt caused a deep financial hit from coronavirus – he said interim financial statements lost nearly $ 1.1 billion in the first three months of this year due to revenue of $ 3.2 billion, and an additional operating loss of $ 360 million during April.

That said, the chain is still sitting in pants-full of money; as of December 30, he said in a financial statement, he had $ 6 billion in cash and liquid investments.

Sutter’s bad mouth provides an ideal opportunity to examine how coronaviruses have affected the finances of our leading hospital company.

This also allows us to review the antipompetitive behavior allegedly carried out by Sutter, which Becerra suggested underlies a huge hoard of money. Here is our bottom line: Becerra must not succumb to the settlement provisions, and Judge Massullo must approve it as stated.

Let’s start with the antitrust case.

Lawsuit 2018 Becerra alleged that Sutter Health, which consists of 24 hospitals and 34 operations centers in Northern California, had exploited its size for years
extract “price rises illegally” from insurance companies, entrepreneurs and patients. The lawsuit was built based on cases filed earlier by the Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Among the practices challenged, Becerra pointed to an “all or nothing” rule that Sutter began to apply in his contract with the health plan in 2002. Under this rule, Sutter would not allow any hospital to be excluded by the health plan. from their tissues, or even lowered to a lower level which allows patients to choose them at higher co-pays.

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This poses a dilemma for payers, because many Sutter hospitals are “must-have” institutions for insurance companies or their clients, whether because they are highly valued by patients because of their reputation, or the only hospitals that are suitable in certain geographical areas.

But these restrictions prevent insurance companies or employers from directing patients to low-cost hospitals, either by placing high-cost institutions outside the network or charging higher additional fees.

Sutter said that insurance companies are free to remove their hospitals from their network on request. But the insurance company testified that Sutter put the conditions of the sentence as an exception so that the insurance company had no practical choice. The lawsuit further alleges that the chain imposed arbitration and confidentiality requirements in its contract which effectively maintained its confidentiality.

The whole arrangement, Becerra alleged, was a huge pricing scheme that “hurt the general economy of Northern California and thus the state.” The price of hospitalization at Sutter Health homes is as much as 70% higher than in the much more competitive Southern California area, he said.

The California hospital chain not only raises prices faster than inflation, but gives competitors room to raise their own prices.

(USC)

That conclusion is supported by academic research and a finding by the Federal Trade Commission. Sutter may not be the only hospital provider in the region, but it does signal that other service providers are aiming for him. “These people set the price of an umbrella, and everyone floats,” Glenn Melnick, a health expert at USC, told me after Becerra filed a lawsuit.

Like expensive Becerra settlement was announced December 20 appeared for Sutter Health, it was something that was mutually beneficial. Becerra rightly described it as “historic,” given the magnitude of Sutter’s sentence and his agreement to stop the anti-competitive practices he suspected.

On the other hand, Sutter did not have to admit the accusation. That avoids the trial, where further details of his behavior may have been publicly displayed and that limits liability that may have grown to billions for only $ 575 million.

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But the pandemic era came, Sutter has revealed what we call settler remorse.

The settlement agreement still requires the approval of Judge Massullo. The hospital company has asked it to postpone its almost unlimited trial and final decision – as much as 30 days after Governor Gavin Newsom declared an end to the pandemic emergency in California.

Spokesman Sutter Amy Thoma Tan said that the chain “did not object to any aspect of the settlement.” Instead, he told me by email, Sutter “asked to delay initial approval given the extreme disruption to the health care industry caused by COVID-19 and COVID-19’s potential to materially influence certain settlement requirements.”

Tan pointed me to “a very expensive and challenging effort” to adjust its operations to the post-coronavirus reality “which will significantly impact us in the coming years.”

All that is true, as far as it goes. But this is not the whole story.

Although Sutter has not explicitly proposed to cancel part of the settlement, he said June 12 court filing that “the financial and operational impacts of the pandemic can … lead to impractical or material impacts” of the agreement.

This includes limiting increases in off-network costs, which “may be too low to cover an unprecedented and unexpected increase in spending to respond to COVID-19.”

Sutter produced statistics showing that outpatient surgery cases dropped 73% in the period from March 17 to April 30, compared to six weeks before March 17. Emergency room visits dropped by 43%, bed days by 23% and clinical visits 60%.

Because the service produced a lot of Sutter’s bread and butter, the chain said it had been forced to close some facilities and reduce working hours for some non-emergency services, which resulted in the reassignment or reduction of hours for more than 5,000 employees.

Becerra’s office does not buy the argument that these conditions guarantee revision of the agreement. In their brief explanation of why Massullo must proceed and agreeing to the agreement, Varanini and Richard Grossman, a lawyer for trade unions, observed that while the COVID-19 crisis had changed the healthcare landscape, it had not changed “the need for commercial insurance companies and Sutter to negotiate agreements” or change “antitrust concerns that the basis “that motivates a lawsuit.

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If the long-term conditions finally show that some of the conditions are too strict, it can be taken based on the provisions that allow for a revised settlement – later. Meanwhile, any delay allows Sutter to continue the behavior that allegedly raised prices in the first place.

As for Sutter’s financial suffering, his claim is worth observing.

To begin, there is no guarantee that the reduction in health care requests cited by Sutter will last long. The company recognizes that many of the reductions in business result from residential stay orders or health problems that keep patients from visiting hospitals and clinics for elective surgery or non-emergency care.

The end of the crisis might bring about a revival of these visits. Sutter has helped a lot in directing the crisis. He received more than $ 200 million in federal aid pandemic funds until mid-May, as well as a $ 1 billion federal advance in Medicare to deal with the pandemic hump.

The latter must be repaid, but the government has indicated that it will give hospitals up to one year to do so.

As for the $ 1.1 billion loss, around $ 500 million consisted of unrealized losses caused by a fall in the investment market earlier this year. But the market has returned strongly since its lowest point in late March – the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has gained 40% since the slump, and on Tuesday showed a loss for the year of less than 4%.

In such circumstances, Sutter Health does not have a business including investment losses in all of its financial claims.

Judge Massullo has set July 9 for a hearing about Sutter’s request to delay approval of the settlement. He may choose to do so because holding further hearings in the settlement itself may be complicated by ongoing emergencies.

But one would hope that he would carefully consider Sutter’s argument that the world had changed so drastically and permanently that parts of the agreement needed to be abolished – or whether it used the crisis as an excuse to break the agreement signed by only six people. last month.

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Prize for the Portuguese. Andre Silva is Champions League Player of the Week

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Prize for the Portuguese.  Andre Silva is Champions League Player of the Week

BUTndre Silva won the competition and became the best player of the week in the Champions League, informed UEFAthis Thursday.

The former Porto striker scored in Jota’s 3-1 victory over Celtic Leipzig, scoring a brace in a match that was signed after his Portuguese compatriot equalized.

In addition, Andre Silva also provided the assist for Nkunku, scoring the first goal of this Wednesday’s game in which huge show of foreign fans.

In addition to the Leipzig striker, Di Maria (Juventus), Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) and Di Lorenzo (Napoli) also fought in the fight for the prize, but it was the Portuguese who managed to smile after voting for the third round of the competition, the famous This Thursday is the fair.

Read also: Diogo Costa and Andre Silva named to Champions League Team of the Week

See also: Andre Silva among the nominees for the title of the best player of the week in the Champions League

See also: double dose. Andre Silva returned to celebrate and sentenced doubts

See also: Andre Silva took advantage of Hart’s colossal mistake and responded to Jota’s goal

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Eternal Portuguese deja vu – Renaissance

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Eternal Portuguese deja vu - Renaissance

At the end of the summer of 1972, exactly half a century ago, SEDES – Associação para o Desenvolvimento Económico e Social (the most famous reformist think tank during Marseilles) issued a document for the country entitled “Portugal: The country we are, the country we want to be “. The Marseille spring had already turned into autumn: Américo Thomas had just been re-elected, the colonial war had dragged on, repression had intensified, and an economic crisis was already brewing. Seeing the general frustration, and at the same time willing to go against it, the signatories of CEDES began by asking “Where will we be and how will we be in 1980?” to criticize the obstacles that overshadowed Portugal in the early 1970s.

Among the “problems that are getting worse without a solution”, emigration stood out, indicating the country’s inability to offer better living and working conditions to those who left; the growing inflationary process, reflected in the cost of living; the inevitability of economic integration in Europe when the country is not ready for international commercial competition; “disaggregation of regional economies” with “continuous depopulation of municipalities and regions” within the country; or “deterioration of public administration” when the government fails to promote a “prestigious, moralized, revitalized and efficient public sector”. “No one will have any difficulty,” continued the text, “to add to a new list of urgent questions that seriously endanger national life, about which much has been said and which, year after year, continue to wait for a sufficient solution.” Therefore, “the prevailing feeling in the country” in contemplation of the recent past and present could not but be “annoyance at urgent battles, the need for which was endlessly discussed, at decisions that were changed or postponed, and at rejected goals” or which were not clearly formulated ” .

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Between “untapped resources” and/or “lack of organizational and decision-making capacity” there was “widespread anxiety” stemming from the inevitable observation that “we are very far from the results that we could achieve thanks to the progress of the Portuguese and Portugal”. This was the macro goal of the reformist, humanist and liberalizing technocrats that SEDES brought together. “Ultimately,” they reminded Marcelo Cayetano, “the real obstacle can only be associated with the low political priority of economic and social development in our country.” So, in short, there was an urgent need to “radically change our economic, social and political way of life”, since “a national balance based on general anemia, repression and weakening of various participants” is unsustainable and pernicious.

SEDES did not know that the Estado Novo would fall in April 1974, that democracy would come in 1976, and Europe from the EEC (after EFTA) in 1986 of repression, finally gained the freedom that was discussed between the lines of the 1972 manifesto ., there would be conditions for solving (almost) all economic and social problems of development and cohesion.

Fifty years have passed since this manifesto, and almost the same number has already been in democracy. However, if we compare the above quotes with the Portuguese present, the feeling of deja vu is indescribable. SEDES wondered what the country would be like in 1980 and is wondering today (in its recent study “Ambition: Doubling GDP in 20 Years”) where we will be in 2040. It may be a replay of a sad fate: knowing (some) where to go, but never getting there!

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Algeria interested in Portuguese companies investing in renewable energy – Observer

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Algeria interested in Portuguese companies investing in renewable energy - Observer

Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho met this Wednesday with his Algerian counterpart Ramtan Lamamra, who expressed interest in Portuguese companies investing in Algeria’s solar and wind energy.

Speaking with Lusa, João Cravinho also said that for 2023 it was decided to hold a “high-level meeting chaired by the prime ministers” of the two countries, a meeting to be held in Algiers, in addition to the state visit of the President of Algeria. Algeria to Portugal.

The Portuguese foreign minister said today’s visit to Algeria, where he was with Ramtan Lamamra, whom he has known since 2005 when he was ambassador to Lisbon, is “based on old knowledge”, but also a visit to a country that “does not to be a neighbor”, shares “a lot of fears”. “Not being a neighboring country, it almost shares many concerns about the region, the Mediterranean, the European Union’s relationship with Africa and the Arab world. It was important for us to talk about what we can do together as part of the geopolitical and geo-economic transformation,” he explained.

João Cravinho stressed that the issue of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a factor “which could not but be the subject of dialogue”, and also added that “geo-economic issues related to energy, renewable energy sources and the opportunities that come with the digital transition” also were on the table.

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“While Algeria is a major exporter of fossil fuels, it is also a country with huge potential in terms of solar and wind energy. We have very qualified companies in these areas, and the Algerian side has expressed interest in [ter] Portuguese investors in these areas,” the minister said.

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The official said that it would be a matter of working with the Portuguese Agency for Investment and Foreign Trade (AICEP), with the Secretary of State for Internationalization, as well as with a sectoral ministry, namely the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. A “high-level meeting chaired by the prime ministers” of the two countries is scheduled for 2023, a meeting to be held in Algiers, in addition to the Algerian President’s state visit to Portugal.

“We have a very busy calendar between the two countries. Now we will try to organize a mixed commission, where technical specialists from both countries will gather,” he said, stressing that there are “14 legal documents that are practically finalized and will be signed” in 2023.

João Gomes Cravinho was on a visit to Algiers today to assess bilateral relations in the economic sphere, as well as in terms of cooperation, language and culture, and to discuss international issues.

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