News

Plan would expand pay for performance in Calif.

A new proposal would expand the nation's largest pay for performance plan to reward doctors who do better in patient satisfaction surveys and quality reviews. The California Pay for Performance Program was launched five years ago by a consortium of employers, health plans and physician groups. About half of the physician groups in California have signed up to participate in the program so far, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the group's latest proposal, bonuses would …

HealthGrades releases report on hospitals

Colorado-based HealthGrades released its fourth annual report on hospital quality, a document that includes a list of about 300 hospitals the company recognizes for clinical excellence. Expect local media coverage to stress the new ratings as usual. Based on government Medicare data, the report echoes a finding that most people in healthcare already are well aware of: If you're a patient, your chances of surviving your hospital stay are much higher if you stick with a hospital in the top …

Docs often shortchanged by insurers

Although large insurers talk a good game on transparency, many routinely shortchange physicians in their financial dealings with them, argues AthenaHealth CEO Jonathon Bush. Bush's company, which got major play last week in BusinessWeek, is featured in today's Boston Globe. AthenaHealth provides web-based systems that help physicians survive the billing cycle by tracking claims and reducing potential errors that might result in a claim being rejected. The company has …

SPOTLIGHT: Bush said to prepare HSA plans

Despite the fact that little was said about plans to promote Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) during the State of the Union, the administration still plans to announce a series of proposals designed to make the accounts more attractive to consumers. Article

ALSO NOTED: Analyst rating hurts Humana; Premium increases at Wellpoint cause anger; and much more...

> Humana shares fell on Friday after a prominent Credit Suisse analyst said the company's problems enrolling recipients into Medicare Part D may cause potential customers to move to other plans. Article

> The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report that concludes that most of the top hospitals in the country are doing little anything about high levels of trans fat in the …

Editor's Corner


Although there's been lots of political spin about the President's State of the Union address, the big surprise was that it didn't feature much on healthcare. There may be legislation introduced on malpractice, association health plans and possibly expanding the tax-deductibility of consumer health spending. But given the political capital being made of Part D's problematic …

Attempt to push back Medicare Part D deadline fails

Legislation that would have pushed back the registration deadline for Medicare Part D until December has been defeated in the Senate. The amendment, proposed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), won a 52-45 majority, but failed to pass under Senate rules requiring a clear majority. The legislation's supporters had argued that the widely-reported problems with the benefit's rollout make an extension necessary. Seniors have until May 15 to sign up for the benefit or face penalties.

- read …

Cerner joins billion-dollar club

Cerner said late yesterday its revenue has reached the $1 billion mark. The maker of hospital electronic medical records and CPOE systems for hospitals and physician practices said revenues for new bookings were up $386.3 million in the last quarter, an increase of 58 percent. The company adjusted its earnings forecast for next quarter, saying it expects to make 26 cents to 27 cents per share, lower than the 29 cents per share analysts had wanted. Wall Street is not happy about the news. …

Michael Moore takes aim at healthcare

Here's a piece of news to make healthcare execs everywhere cringe: Filmmaker Michael Moore has issued a casting call for HMO employees and patients willing to appear in his upcoming documentary on the healthcare industry. In a posting on his Web site Friday, Moore asks visitors to send him their HMO and hospital "horror stories." The filmmaker says the film is in the final stages of production. Few observers expect the industry to get a sympathetic hearing from Moore, who created …

Tobin meets with FDA over plant issues

Boston Scientific CEO James Tobin meets with FDA officials today to discuss concerns over quality control issues at several of the device maker's facilities. Last week, the FDA delivered a stern rebuke to the company, saying it has failed to correct deficiencies despite repeated warnings. Some Wall Street analysts have speculated that the regulatory problems could delay Boston Scientific's acquisition of Guidant. Not surprisingly, the company is adopting a conciliatory tone in its …

Fla. site gives inside view of hospitals

Florida has launched a new hospital comparison Web site which could serve as a model for other states. The new site lists details on infection rates, complications, survival rates for certain procedures and prices. Florida is the first state in the nation to make information about infections public, the Orlando Sun Sentinel reports. The new site is a result of a 2004 law passed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush over the objections of hospitals. The presidential Bush administration is …

SPOTLIGHT: Medicare change good for affiliated rehab centers


A new spending cap that went into effect January 1 means that many Medicare recipients receiving treatment at rehabilitation centers will be forced to move to facilities affiliated with hospitals. Nationwide, thousands of physical therapy centers that are not affiliated with hospitals are affected. The rules changes for rehabilitation centers have raised controversy among some patient advocates, who argue patients in some cases may forgo care. Article

ALSO NOTED: Data input: the final frontier; Study urges self-monitoring of warfarin use; and much more...

> Health economist James Robinson talks with Managed Care about his ideas on managed consumerism. Article

> The Wall Street Journal examines the benefits of HSAs for employers. Article (sub. req.)

> Tennessee-based disease management specialist American …

Calif. to file suit over Part D

The state of California will file a legal challenge against the federal government's new prescription drug plan, the state's attorney general said yesterday. The suit will argue that the new benefit is failing to deliver needed medicines to participants and that it could end up costing California as much as $750 million over the next three years. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who faces a tough election campaign this year after a disappointing 2005, ordered the suit, saying yesterday that …

NYC to launch AIDS monitoring program

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden proposed changes to state laws that will radically alter the way in which public health authorities track HIV/AIDS. The changes would modify state privacy laws written in the 1980s that it make it difficult for the government to track patients with HIV/AIDS. Frieden also wants testing to become to "a routine" element of medical care. Privacy groups have staunchly resisted, fearing patients might face discrimination. The impact of the …

Appropriations bill passes in House

Congress passed a spending bill that will lead to significant changes in the way Medicaid programs work. In a 216 to 214 vote, the House passed an appropriation bill that supporters say will save the federal government $35 billion over 5 years. Backers call the measures a bold attempt to rework a system that has "gone out of control." Among the changes: new rules for state Medicaid programs that will allow co-pays and premiums to be raised. Critics say the new rules will lead many to …

HCA releases Q4 numbers

Despite a distracting conflict of interest scandal involving Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and losses during the Gulf storms, HCA posted fourth-quarter numbers that were about the same as last year's. Despite all the problems, the company's stock is trading at about $50, up more than 25 percent over a year ago.

- see this article from the …

Subimo makes a splash in consumer health information

Subimo is a consumer health information tools company formed by several veterans of Sachs Group in the early days of the dot-com bust. It provides a series of health information modules for consumers. These are now used by many Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, including an expansion announced this week with BCBS of Florida, other insurers and some banks. Their core ability is to take data sources, such as quality metrics and cost information about plans, providers and treatments, and …

SPOTLIGHT: McKinsey study examines IT spending


In a study that could have implications for healthcare executives looking to expand their healthcare IT spending, McKinsey found that the quality of IT programs in the banking sector has little, if anything, to do with the rate of spending. In fact, top performers spent significantly less on IT than their floundering counterparts. It also has nothing to do with organizational size. The banks that did the best, the consultancy reports, are those with the better IT management teams and …

ALSO NOTED: Bush's pledge to modernize EMR system examined; GE, Aurora reach agreement; and much more...

> A number of tech industry publications examine President Bush pledge to modernize electronic medical records systems in the State of the Union. Other observers wonder if a further announcement is forthcoming. Article

> GE Healthcare and Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee, have reached a seven-year agreement to help Aurora improve its operating expenses and patient care. …