Surprisingly, the short work week before Thanksgiving was packed with major health care news; here's a look at the big headlines you may have missed over the long weekend:


  • As widely reported last Wednesday, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., is stepping down Dec. 2, making way for incoming chief Marilyn Tavenner. Here's the reaction of American Hospital Association President Rich Umbdenstock; this quick summary of the situation from Forbes columnist David Whelan is also worth a read. Though Whelan disagrees with many of Berwick's policy positions, he argues that the successful opposition to Berwick's confirmation represents a "triumph of the bland" in Washington. "Look around DC at all the bland bureaucrats who are great strivers and over-achievers," Whelan writes. "The problem is that all their work has the same flavor: vanilla. I'd argue instead for appointing quality thinkers like Berwick and then letting them succeed or fail." In a look at incoming CMS chief Tavenner, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein describes her as a "pragmatist."
  • Three health systems — Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Ind., and the Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage — won the 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced last week. There was also one non-health care winner, Concordia Publishing House of St. Louis. Watch this space in coming weeks for reaction from the three winners on what makes their organizations tick.
  • The American Hospital Association is reporting that hospitals are appealing a third of all denied claims from Medicare's Recovery Audit Contractor program, achieving success with 77 percent of appeals. Overall, 81 percent of hospitals surveyed have appealed at last one claim. The full report, based on data from the AHA's RACTrac program, includes detailed information on regional trends, statistics on the sorts of claims that have been denied and the cost of claims and record requests from CMS.
  • And finally, the Center For Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality is reporting a sharp uptick in hospital ED visits related to the consumption of nonalcoholic energy drinks, from 1,128 in 2005 to 13,114 in 2009. Half of the patient visits included combinations of energy drinks with alcohol; two-thirds of the visits were classified as adverse reactions. The total amount of caffeine in an energy drink can be as high as 500 milligrams in a single can, compared with 100 mgs in a 5-ounce cup of coffee.

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Haydn Bush is senior online editor for Hospitals and Health Networks magazine.