The CVS-Oak Street Health buy may be finalized on paper for $10.6 billion, but it’s not a done deal. While the papers are signed and the preparations may be underway for a closing at the end of the year, it’s still subject to Federal and state approvals [TTA 9 Feb]. This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a one-time presidential candidate who cherishes her bully pulpit as a member of two finance committees (but chair of none), sent a letter (office release) to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “carefully scrutinize” the deal. In addition, she urges FTC to “retrospectively review similarly consummated deals and challenge in court any mergers that have reduced competition in violation of antitrust laws”. FTC is a prime candidate for a nudge because their newly activist stance needs little encouragement for the commissioners to pull out the cudgels.
CVS may very well find itself challenged as well by the Department of Justice (DOJ)–a more complicated action since it requires preparing a case, going to Federal Court, filing papers, and convincing a judge that it involves true antitrust issues worthy of further examination. CVS may well be spending time in Federal and state courts before the closing, and likely expects it. Even so, DOJ appears to be positioned on the sidelines. There is a memorandum of understanding between DOJ and Health and Human Services sharing concerns about antitrust. DOJ may also be tired of complicated, labor-intensive suits like UnitedHealth Group and Change Healthcare that wound up in favor of the defendants and with egg on DOJ’s face [TTA 23 Mar]. Unlike DOJ, FTC has more latitude and they have been using it. Thus Sen. Warren’s appeal is a strategic one. FierceHealthcare
Yet where does it end? Horizontal integration or consolidation–businesses buying similar businesses–has obvious limits. But vertical integration–owning part or all of the care continuum or means of production–is less obvious. It can make healthcare more available and effective. But it may reduce competitive opportunity and create a ‘one or none’ business model. That is where the Feds tend to step in unless it’s a bank (of late).
VistA’s new tune is ‘I’m Still Here’–in the cloud. Yes, VistA, facing phase-out at the VA, is moving its system to the cloud, and has major reasons why. Reginald Cummings, the deputy chief information officer for VA’s infrastructure operations, explained during a panel discussion of the Association for Federal IRM (AFFIRM) that the ‘lift and shift’ (the hip IT term for this) was done for two things: to move it away from being multiple systems running at each facility, and to ‘containerize’ it, packaging the application together with the resources it needs to operate, such as the operating system itself, the storage and interfaces. This improves security and portability. The real news is that VA is now admitting that it will take years to transition to Oracle Cerner. According to Daniel McCune, a VA software executive, VA may need VistA for another 10 years. (Perhaps 15?) Supposedly, this isn’t modernization…but it does keep a legacy system running indefinitely, like the Energizer Bunny, which would 1) suit many at VA, and 2) perhaps avoid dealing with the Oracle Cerner issues. No mention is made in the article if this makes transitioning to Oracle Cerner easier, which this Editor finds odd. The chair of the panel discussion, Tom Temin, is also the article author on Federal News Network. As some of our international Readers know, VistA is used in countries such as India as open-source software (WorldVista.org).
And speaking of Oracle Cerner, the layoffs are on. Rumors have it as high as 10% of Oracle Cerner’s global workforce of about 28,000. It is surmised that at Cerner’s former HQ sites in Kansas City, the layoffs may be several hundred, though no WARN notices for group layoffs have been filed with Missouri. These notices are required when layoffs are at least 50-499 employees if they represent at least 33% of the total active workforce, excluding any part-time employees; or 500 or more employees (excluding any part-time employees) in which case the 33% does not apply. (DOL WARN Act guide) The Cerner workforce in the KC area was about 12,000 at one point. Severance packages were reported to be four weeks plus one week per year of service.
In addition, Oracle employees who were working from an Oracle office but transitioned to remote work during the pandemic must return to in-office work at their previous campus. They will be notified by managers in the next 30 days whether they will be full time in office, ‘flex’ or hybrid without an assigned space, or continuing as remote. Perhaps this is why WARN notices were not filed. Many workers moved out of area, and refusal to return to office can be called quitting. HISTalk, Becker’s
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