What We're Reading: Oncology Group Fined $100 Million; CMS Issues Rule on ACOs; VA Preps for Virus Influx

Florida Cancer Specialists will pay $100 million as a criminal penalty for antitrust violations; CMS will exclude spending associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic from accountable care organization (ACO) performance calculations; the Department of Veterans Affairs orders $300,000 worth of body bags.

Oncology Group Admits to Antitrust Violations, Agrees to Penalty

Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute LLC (FCS) has admitted to antitrust violations and agreed to pay a $100 million criminal penalty, according to the United States Department of Justice. The oncology group based out of Fort Meyers, Florida, was charged with conspiring to allocate medical and radiation oncology treatments for patients with cancer in Southwest Florida. The criminal antitrust conspiracy involved a competing oncology group located in Collier, Lee, and Charlotte counties. The conspiracy began as early as 1999 and continued until at least 2016, limiting valuable care choices for patients with cancer in Florida for nearly 2 decades.

CMS Rule Will Provide Flexibility for ACOs Among COVID-19

In an interim final ruling, CMS agreed to remove spending associated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) care from performance calculations for accountable care organizations (ACOs) in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). CMS will also extend its mitigation of shared losses back to January 2020, ultimately providing flexibility for ACOs to stay in their same risk track next year, according to a press release from the National Association of ACOs (NAACOS). The Association hopes this will help sustain participation in the MSSP for 2020. However, NAACOS expressed disappointment that the ruling did not include an application period in 2021 for new ACOs.

VA Braces for COVID-19 Deaths

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ordered nearly $300,000 worth of body bags in response to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases plaguing its healthcare facilities, according to Politico. Currently more than 8500 VA patients have been diagnosed with the disease and nearly 500 have died. It is unclear whether the VA made the purchase in anticipation of a spike in deaths or to redistribute them to other organizations. The purchase comes after a report that nearly 2000 VA health workers have fallen ill with COVID-19, posing a challenge to delivering optimal care for patients.