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November 30, 2023 News No Comments

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Health insurers Cigna and Humana are negotiating a merger that they hope to finalize in the next four weeks, according to insider reports.

The companies are sure to face anti-trust challenges as they did in their failed 2015 merger attempt.

Humana focuses on Medicare Advantage plans, while Cigna recently announced its intention to exit that business to focus on its pharmacy benefit and commercial insurance offerings.

The value of the combined companies would approach $140 billion. Cigna and Humana shares dropped on the news.


Reader Comments

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From Ex-HHC: “Re: Donors Choose. Can you re-post donation instructions?” I will, while adding that while I use the term “my Donors Choose project,” I don’t actually have a project and I don’t actively bug readers to support one (that constitutes “virtue signaling,” as one cynical reader stung me with). It’s a great cause in which you are donating directly to Donors Choose, I apply matching money from my Anonymous Vendor Executive, and I fully and anonymously fund STEM-related teacher projects of my choosing as that person requests. Above is a photo from Ms. D, whose Ohio middle school class has already received a tablet and 30 sets of headphones courtesy of Mark’s donation just two days ago. Anyway, long story short (too late):

  • Purchase a gift card in the amount you’d like to donate.
  • Send the gift card by the email option to mr_histalk@histalk.com (that’s my Donors Choose account).
  • I’ll be notified of your donation and you can print your own receipt from Donors Choose for tax purposes.
  • I’ll pool the money, apply all matching funds I can get, and publicly report here the projects I funded, including occasional teacher follow-up messages and photos.

From Litany of Brittanys: “Re: winter holiday. What was that one you mentioned last year?” That holiday is Yalda, which falls on December 21. Below is my explanation from last year, but I’ll also throw in an interesting and slightly related factoid — while the winter solstice signifies the fewest hours of daylight for those of us who are north of the equator, the earliest sunset occurs on December 8, for reasons that are too astronomically complicated to explain here. Back to Yalda:

Yalda celebrants, most of them in Iran and nearby countries, observe the winter solstice, the last day of autumn and the longest night of the year, after which hours of daylight start increasing again. People stay up all night, eat watermelon and pomegranates (their glowing colors symbolize dawn and life), read poetry, and dance and play drums when the sun rises in a triumph of light over dark. Yalda means “birth.” I like it even beyond my personal obsession with changing hours of daylight — nobody is excluded or favored since the same sun shines down on us all, although I suppose folks in the Southern Hemisphere would need to buy their Yalda pomegranates in June.


HIStalk Announcements and Requests

I’m getting inquiries lately from companies that want to pay me to do a video interview or podcast with an executive, highlight their product, or feature their press release. Other sites do this without disclosing the paid arrangement, they say, so they seem surprised when I tell them that my integrity isn’t for sale. I appreciate the interest, but it’s a no.


Webinars

None scheduled soon. Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre to present or promote your own.


Acquisitions, Funding, Business, and Stock

Meanwhile, a KFF article notes that some hospitals are dropping their acceptance of Medicare Advantage plans — even as seniors more frequently choose that alternative to traditional Medicare — because of low and late payments and bureaucratic approval and denial processes. This could be a significant issue because it isn’t easy for a consumer to switch from an MA plan to traditional Medicare with a Medigap policy, potentially leaving them insured but with no in-network hospital nearby.

Experian acquires Wave HDC, which captures patient insurance and demographics at registration.

Stat’s Bob Herman notes that UnitedHealth Group’s Optum Health provider division now employs 90,000 physicians, up from 70,000 one year ago.

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Mayo Clinic will spend $5 billion to redesign its Rochester campus that features “health neighborhoods” that are more convenient for extended care and for patients who have multiple health issues. Technology will play a key role, Mayo says. The plan is built around Rochester’s “Destination Medical Center” 20-year economic development plan, not that US healthcare wasn’t already confusing enough to the rest of the developed, longer-lifespan world without hinging regional growth on selling medical services.


People

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PeriGen hires John Parker, MD (OhioHealth) as chief medical officer.


Announcements and Implementations

Duke Health begins its use of Microsoft Copilot, with IT employees developing Microsoft 365 use cases involving email management, editing and creating documents and presentations, and creating summaries of virtual meetings.

St. Joseph’s / Candler Health System (GA) goes live on Meditech Expanse ambulatory and launches implementation of Expanse Oncology.

HFMA and FinThrive launch a peer-reviewed, five-stage Revenue Cycle Management Technology Adoption Model, with initial analysis indicating that 42% of health systems are at Stage 1.

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HIMSS announces Alabama football coach Nick Saban as the HIMSS24 closing keynote speaker, trying to pre-refute “any willing celebrity” smirks with the dubious explanation that there exist “so many parallels from football to healthcare.” I’ll consider this as validation of my decision to skip attending the boat show for the first time in forever. The HIMSS24 exhibitor count is at 483 versus the 1,216 of HIMSS23, which suggests either exhibitor procrastination or a disastrous drop under conference operator (or is it owner?) Informa Markets.

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A new KLAS report on PACS finds that 20% of health systems plan to replace their systems in moving from legacy systems and moving toward enterprise imaging strategies. Sectra leads by far in purchase energy due to peer recommendations, strong customer relationships, and EHR integration, although cost considerations sometimes discourage smaller organizations. Visage Imaging’s cloud-based diagnostic viewer is gaining momentum among large health systems who like its radiologist-friendly user interface and strong integration, although its recently introduced vendor-neutral archive has seen limited adoption. (click the image to enlarge).


Other

A survey finds that 72% of consumers are unable or unwilling to pay their medical bills immediately, two-thirds of them because of money problems. Half of the respondents say they have postponed care and prescription fills due to cost, while one-third have no confidence in their ability to pay a medical bill over $500.

Tech expert Robert Scoble highlights how a Texas prison is using AI mental health conversation analysis software from Savantcare to address the 1,300 inmates who are being unconstitutionally held because they can’t mentally understand the charges they face.


Sponsor Updates

  • Health Data Movers announces a strategic partnership with Workday as a certified Workday Advisory Services Partner.
  • CHIME selects Meditech vice chair Howard Messing for its CHIME Foundation Industry Leader Award.

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