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Health Wonk Review: October Surprise edition

The newest installment of Health Wonk Review is up, courtesy of David Williams at the Health Business Blog, and my recent post about politicians perpetuating the myth that the U.S. has the “best healthcare in the world” is featured prominently. If you’re looking for anything else even vaguely related to health IT in this edition of HWR, you might be disappointed, but Williams offers a nice sampling of opinions on other topics that arose during the first presidential debate last week as well as a few ideas that could be considered part of overall health reform.

Speaking of health reform and politics, this morning I received a plea to donate money to the Romney campaign from the nutbars over at Docs4PatientCare. As a rule, I do not give money to any political candidates or to PACs because I want to maintain as much objectivity as possible for someone who occasionally calls people “nutbars.” Why do I say this about D4PC? A year and a half ago, I wrote this:

D4PC contacted me last fall with links to a series of videos, including one from group representative Scott Barbour, M.D. According to the original pitch to me, “Utilizing quotes from Dr. Berwick, Dr. Barbour exposed that, ‘He is not interested in better health care. He is only concerned about implementing his socialist agenda.’”

In another video, Docs4PatientCare Vice President Fred Shessel, M.D., said of Berwick, “This is a man who has made a career out of socializing medicine and rationing care for the very young, the very old and the very sick. It is a backdoor power grab. It is dragging our country down the road to socialism and we should resist it.”

I responded to this pitch with a short question: “Berwick isn’t interested in better care? Do you know anything about his work at IHI?” I never got a response. Docs4PatientCare seemingly was trying to hoodwink media that don’t know any better and/or care more about politics than facts.

Today’s pitch, from Michael Koriwchak, M.D., who calls himself the HIT expert of the group, said, “ObamaCare came along with its promise to destroy our health care system.” I would love to know who made that promise, and why anyone thinks we have such a great “system” now. (Prominent Republican Mike Leavitt, HHS secretary in the Bush administration, has often said we do not have a healthcare “system,” but rather a poorly run, inefficient, dangerous healthcare “sector.”)

“Every dollar you give brings us a step closer to victory in November and the opportunity to replace ObamaCare with doctor-driven improvements to our health care system,” Koriwchak adds. Do we really want “doctor-driven” improvements when physicians won’t admit that they make far more mistakes than any advanced nation should tolerate? I want data-driven improvements.

“The voices of physicians who care for patients every day are now heard in Washington. This may be the last opportunity for you to take back control of your health care. Do you want your health care decisions to be made by you and your doctor, or by an indifferent bureaucrat in Washington?” Koriwchak concludes.

With all due respect, that argument has been beaten to death for years. No bureaucrat in Washington is going to be making care decisions any more than a bean counter at a private insurer does. And patients can’t “take back” control of their care because they don’t have much control now as long as defenders of the status quo in the medical establishment won’t let patients see their own health records and act like physicians are infallible.

Koriwchak kills the little credibility he has left by saying he has “participated in conversations” with several members of Congress and includes the nutty Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who famously formed her views against the HPV vaccine based on what some random woman told her after a debate last year during the GOP primary season.

“She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. The mother was crying when she came up to me last night. I didn’t know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions,” Bachmann said, without offering a shred of scientific evidence. But if you repeat a lie often enough, people start to believe it. Right, Dr. Koriwchak?

October 12, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CCHIT critic identified

(Updated, 4:50 p.m. CST) The lengthy criticism leveled at the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology just got a little lengthier, and we finally know the name of the critic.

A “Calvin Jablonski” just added a comment to my post about CCHIT from earlier in the week. This seems like the same person who posted under the name “CJ” on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog last week, a comment subsequently reprinted here and on the Health Care Renewal Blog—there might be others, too—that brought a response from CCHIT Marketing Director Sue Reber on all the same blogs.

I searched the name “Calvin Jablonski” and could only find his posts about CCHIT, not any information on his background or interest in this topic. I believe, based on my statistics monitor for this site, that the comment came from IP address 65.218.162.# (the # indicates a number that I’m not privy to), on the network of marketing firm Euro RSCG 4 Impact in Norcross, Ga.

Today, Jablonski hammered away at alleged links between CCHIT and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society:

Ms Reber why don’t you admit the defunct status of CCHIT?
Its been verified… Why don’t you admit CCHIT has concealed its defunct status?

Why do you deny which is obviously the truth and which as been verified? CCHIT is a defunct 501 c 3 tax exempt non-profit that has been dissolved for over a year.

Why don’t you admit CCHIT was spwaned by none other than Steve Lieber, CEO of, another 501 c organization that hasn’t paid a dime in taxes but has made over $100million dollars in profits?

Why don’ty you admit CCHIT and HIMSS has presented an advocacy positon of not asking for millions, but now, BILLION of dollars that will fall down the same tax-dodging rat hole if funded according Liebers’ plan?

Why don’t you admit the non profit scheme cooked up by is full of “artificial transactions” designed to operate as a business filter that allows both organizations to fly below the level of taxable income on IRS radar?

Why don’t you admit CCHIT has continued to take checks from vendors during the period it has effectively been dissolved?

Why don’t you admit there is a revolving door for staff members between CCHIT, HIMSS and the EHRA?


Jablonski’s anti-CCHIT campaign actually started before the WSJ comment. “Calvin Jablonski, 501(c)(6) expert” commented on the Chilmark Research blog about the economic stimulus legislation on Feb. 1. You’ll note that he has some company in his criticisms. From the same string of comments, “rockyostrand” says:

Caution, Achtung, Cuidado,

Non-profit trade associations like HIMSS are waiting in the wings and closets at beltway bandit locations all over Maryland, Virginia and D.C. with their hands and cash buckets out waiting for the ink to dry.

Get ready for that giant sucking sound to make the tax dodging 501 (C) 6 “C- Suite” a lot richer.

Don’t you think its time to get the CCHIT and HITSP people out of the mix? its clear at this point they are after the checkbook , the other stuff about HIT is just the game they are playing to get at it. The thing about CCHIT- its an outgrowth of HIMSS and started at 230 E. Ohio St in Chicago, literally a HIMSS subsidiary spinoff residing residing under the same roof. Try looking into the CEO of CCHIT. You will find he is the CMO of HIMSS- gee what small world… YEESSS , Mark Leavitt, possible relation to Mike Leavitt, HHS Secretary.
Rocky Ostrand

That’s awfully close to Jablonski’s original critique—and clearly wrong in claiming that CCHIT Chairman Mark Leavitt, M.D., Ph.D., still is CMO of HIMSS (he went on leave from that position when CCHIT started, but he’s since officially split from HIMSS) and that he might be related to former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. Mike Leavitt is a devout Mormon from Utah. Mark Leavitt is a Chicago native of Jewish descent.

On the most recent set of allegations, I believe CCHIT has never hid the fact that it was created by HIMSS, the National Alliance for Health Information Technology and the American Health Information Management Association. Whether Steve Lieber personally spawned CCHIT, I don’t know and don’t think is relevant.

The questions about the involuntary dissolution of CCHIT as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation under Illinois law are valid ones. The questions about possible conflicts of interest involving CCHIT and other organizations are valid ones. The charge of a “scheme” full of “artificial transactions” is a serious one, but I don’t see any evidence to support it.

One more thing I’ve discovered since the original post: CCHIT’s previous office before moving to 200 S. Wacker Dr. in Chicago was at 233 N. Michigan Ave., the same location as AHIMA, not the 230 E. Ohio St. building where HIMSS is based.

You can bet this is not the last we’ll hear on this subject. I can’t wait to see if CCHIT has another “town hall” at this year’s HIMSS conference. That ought to be fun.

February 18, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

CCHIT under fire

The Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology is on the defensive after a very scathing comment about it on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog last week. (I added the hot links and spacing between paragraphs, but otherwise the text is verbatim):

Why not pack CCHIT EHR certifications in Cracker Jack Boxes? If folks think CCHIT is a real organization and the certification is anything more then a stamp of approval from the HIMSS Circus they need to think again after looking at the facts.

Some facts are known about the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology.

The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) is a defunct Illinois Not-For-Profit 501(c) 3, which operates to take money from the Office of the National Coordinator and Vendors by offering to sell a “Certification”.

DID I say DEFUNCT? Yes I said DEFUNCT…please read on.

The Not-For-Profit 501(c) 3, Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), operates a “Front” office located at 200 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois.

CCHIT, as it is known, represents itself as a government recognized organization for certifying electronic health records. CCHIT has received monies from the United States Government (estimated over $2.5 million to date) and monies from vendors of electronic health records.

CCHIT was formed as a NFP in the State of Illinois and is an entity spawned by none other , CCHIT is no longer a legal entity existing within the State of Illinois effective April 11, 2008, but continues to engage business as a 501(c) 3 accepting payments as reported by J. Morrisey, Director of CCHIT Communications (February 3, 2009).

CCHIT continues to hold itself out to take money for the sale of “Certification” (a rubber stamp device the buyer can display on his product if the fee is paid), a contrived performance standards product label developed by its parent organization, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a lobbyist, with headquarters at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois. CCHIT was also located within the HIMSS Headquarters at 230 E. Ohio Street in Chicago but moved to Wacker Drive apparently due to appearances of being too close to the lobbyist parent organization.

CCHIT, through the organization that spawned them—, a lobbyist organization—recently asked for $25 Billion additional funds in an open letter to the Obama
administration ( HIMSS, through its agent H. Stephen Lieber, provided CCHT with $300,000 seed money in 2006 with which to fund a startup operation. HIMSS receives money from CCHIT as a subcontractor, as the payoff for seeding the startup. HIMSS provides public commentary through the use of its own members for certification criteria back to CCHIT. HIMSS is also the parent company for the Electronics Health Record Vendor Association (EHRVA), another Not-For-Profit housed at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois.

The Facts:
1. The Chairman of CCHIT is Mark Leavitt, MD, PhD. Mark Leavitt is also Chief Medical Officer with It is believed Mark Leavitt may be a relative of Mike Leavitt, former HHS Secretary.
2. CCHIT takes federal money, and money from vendors, in exchange for the sale of “certification”. CCHIT does not have a legitimate physical address where it conducts its testing. CCHIT has a “front” office at 200 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois, with previous headquarters at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois. CCHIT is, in fact, now defunct.
3. CCHIT has no legitimate registration certificate of good standing with the State of Illinois, the state in which it is purportedly chartered as a 501(c) 3. It is, in fact, listed as “involuntarily dissolved” effective April 11, 2008, file# 65254336. Illinois State listing here:
4. CCHIT does not provide independent inspections of its facility or 3rd party reviews of its findings. “Certification” status of vendor products granted by CCHIT after the Illinois State’s involuntary dissolution date of April 11, 2008 appears to be without merit or bogus, and CCHIT operates deceptively to convey legitimacy.
5. CCHIT operates fraudulently within the State of Illinois and in the United States to take money from vendors of electronic health record systems and from taxpayers; the CCHIT business practice presents as a Pay-For-Play scheme; if the vendor pays, CCHIT certifies the product conveying a competitive advantage in the marketplace. There is no transparent certification testing for 3rd party review. The costs to certify are in the many tens of thousands per vendor. Officers and Directors of CCHIT have taken money in exchange for “Certification”, knowing its 501(c) 3 operational status to be defunct.
6. CCHIT, a dissolved entity and defunct 501(c) 3 Not-For-Profit, receives funding from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONCHIT) and is tied to a lobbyist organization that claims to be a Not-For-Profit,—the organization that spawned CCHIT and which formerly housed the entity in its corporate headquarters located at 230 E. Ohio St., Chicago, Illinois.

Why does CCHIT continue to certify vendor products when its own corporation has been involuntarily dissolved? Does the word “MONEY” ring a bell?

CCHIT continues to hold itself out as a certifying entity when it can’t even certify to the state of its incorporation that it does in fact exist.

Closing thoughts:
The certification process and testing should be reviewed carefully, and those vendor companies whose products were certified after CCHIT’s involuntary dissolution should be contacted. Money should be returned to the vendors and the taxpayers- CCHIT is a bogus operation.

CCHIT should NOT be allowed to receive future Federal grants and monies from the United States Government as part of the stimulus package. CCHIT is defunct , moreover the cozy relationships between CCHIT, ONC, CMS, HITSP and others are bankrolled with taxpayer money and money from and its others.

Through all the smoke and mirrors we the people are supposed to trust these Bozo’s and they actually think we are buying it?

There is no point in CCHIT holding itself out as a legitimate entity at HIMSS Annual Conference either, CCHIT is a defunct organization and has been since the beginning of 2008…DUH!

CCHIT has flown under the radar for a year and a half, the jig is up and the whistle has been blown.

Comment by cj – February 13, 2009 at 2:10 am

Oddly, this post actually was a comment in response to a post about the Mayo Clinic being caught in the Bernie Madoff scandal, and seemed to come out of the blue. I have no details about the identity of “CJ,” the person who makes these serious charges.

Clearly, though, the message got through, since CCHIT’s Sue Reber responded Sunday on the WSJ blog:

The “facts” in the previous post are deliberate misinformation from an anonymous source.
1. Mark Leavitt, chair of the Commission, is not employed by HIMSS as CMO nor is he a relative of Mike Leavitt, previous Sec. of HHS.
2. CCHIT conducts jury-observed and technical testing of vendor-submitted products, requiring that the products meet 100% of the compliance criteria published at It’s current administrative offices are at 200 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 3100, Chicago, Illinois.
3. CCHIT was founded originally as a LLC but has subsequently transitioned to a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. That is its current status.
4. CCHIT operates with the oversight of both its board of trustees – managing its business functions – and board of commissioners, which provides oversight of its certification development programs and inspection processes.
5. CCHIT’s trustees and commissioners receive no compensation; they serve in a volunteer capacity. CCHIT operates with a paid staff of about 20 personnel who support the work of the Commission and it’s 15 volunteer work groups, administer the certification inpections and provide outreach to its diverse stakeholders
6. CCHIT now operates independently of HIMSS, AHIMA and NAHIT – its founding organizations – and no money provided by ONC for developent or by vendors for the conduction of inspections is returned to those organizations.

Any questions about CCHIT’s operations may be directed to me at the following email address.

Sue Reber, Marketing Director

The Health Care Renewal blog verified the allegation that the Illinois Secretary of State lists CCHIT as “involuntarily dissolved.”

I live in Chicago. Say what you want about Illinois government, particularly in light of the Rod Blagojevich circus, but Secretary of State Jesse White seems as clean as they get, so I will take the public record at its word.

Here’s what else I know:

  • The “J. Morrisey” that the accuser refers to likely is John Morrissey (note the different spelling), communication manager for CCHIT. Morrissey previously worked for NAHIT. That does not necessarily mean NAHIT has any control over CCHIT.
  • Mark Leavitt no longer works for HIMSS, nor is he related to former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.
  • CCHIT received a three-year, $7.5 million contract from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in October 2005. That means the contract expired in October 2008.
  • Though the procurement process for the certification contract ostensibly was open, CCHIT was the only bidder. Given that HIMSS, NAHIT and AHIMA originally started CCHIT, it does seem like this was a de facto no-bid contract.
  • Although HIMSS did provide seed money for CCHIT, I am not aware of any current “subcontractor” relationship.
  • The HIMSS EHRVA changed its name to the HIMSS EHRA last year, dropping “vendor” from the title. I’m not sure whether this is relevant to any of this discussion, but “CJ” mentioned it.
  • The relationships between HIMSS, CCHIT, NAHIT, HITSP, ONC, CMS and others may be “cozy,” and that’s something definitely worth looking into. HIMSS CEO Steve Lieber and John Loonsk, M.D., director of the ONC Office of Interoperability and Standards are on the HITSP board, but that does not necessarily mean anything.
  • There has been some pushback against the CCHIT certification process of late from smaller vendors, provider organizations and critics of the ONC strategy in general. But those are criticisms of the process, not CCHIT itself.

All of this makes the rumors of Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel Chairman John Halamka, M.D., being under consideration for CMS administrator all the more delicious. But we’re still waiting for the president to nominate an HHS secretary, so it could be months before we get a permanent CMS administrator.

February 15, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Not going quietly

Just when you thought the Bush administration was counting its last days, I get a media advisory that says: “HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to Deliver Major Address on Protecting Privacy, Expanding the Use of Personal Health Records.”

Leavitt is keynoting the Fifth Annual Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) Forum on Monday morning in Washington. According to the advisory, “Secretary Leavitt is expected to announce principles and resources to address privacy and the exchange of electronic health information.”

I won’t be there, but Monday’s keynote will be Webcast starting at 8:30 a.m. EST, as will the closing plenary on Tuesday at noon EST.

December 14, 2008 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.