MIDWEST: Wayne State, Henry Ford Health discuss combining physician groups
Wayne State University and its medical affiliates are talking about a potential business deal with Henry Ford Health System.
While Wayne State already has various medical education and research arrangements with Henry Ford, the talks underway since at least January involve the possibility of merging or combining the 1,200-physician Henry Ford Medical Group with most of Wayne State's 400-physician University Physician Group, according to four sources familiar with the matter.
A deal also could expand the current education and research agreements between the two Detroit-based healthcare organizations and would have effects that could reverberate far beyond the two organizations. It signals that the long-term partnership between Wayne State and the Detroit Medical Center may be winding down.
Dr. Jack Sobel, dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, confirmed the talks with Henry Ford. He said "multiple other" healthcare organizations also are involved that could help Wayne State become a nationally recognized academic medical center.
Sobel did not specify which other health organizations, but Henry Ford has been talking with healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente of Oakland, Calif., the past two years about business arrangements that could be a part of an enhanced Wayne-Henry Ford relationship. Sobel did not deny Kaiser was involved in the multiparty talks that also include other Southeast Michigan health systems.
David Hefner, Wayne State's vice president of health affairs, last week confirmed that the university also has talked with Henry Ford and also other major local health systems.
Crain's contacted the four other health systems in Southeast Michigan. Beaumont Health, St. Joseph and St. John Providence denied they are in talks with Wayne State. McLaren declined to comment. Henry Ford officials declined to comment on the nature of the talks. —Jay Greene, Crain's Detroit Business
WEST: UCHealth builds hospitals as Denver's population booms
As rural hospitals across the country fight to stay open in the face of population losses, UCHealth in Aurora, Colo., has the opposite problem. The population around Denver is growing so quickly that the health system is opening community hospitals around the region to serve patients conveniently and relieve capacity strains on the main campus.
Over the past few months, UCHealth, whose flagship is the University of Colorado Hospital, has opened UCHealth Grandview Hospital in Colorado Springs and UCHealth Broomfield (Colo.) Hospital. In August, UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont is slated to open.
And last week, UCHealth broke ground on the fourth of five community hospitals that it is building as part of a major expansion plan. Its six-story, $310 million UCHealth Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Hospital is expected to open in early 2019, the academic medical system said in a release. It is going up in a booming suburb of Denver located about 12 miles south of the city.
The U.S. Census Bureau ranked Denver last year as the nation's fastest-growing large city. Denver's population is growing about 3% per year, vaulting the metropolitan area into the top 20 nationally. UCHealth Highlands Ranch will open with 72 beds and have room to expand, the system said in a release. An adjacent medical office building will house a two-story cancer center. The population around Highlands Ranch is expected to grow by 25% by 2025, the release said. —Dave Barkholz
WEST: Hundreds of Californians received life-ending prescriptions
At least 504 terminally ill Californians have requested a prescription for life-ending drugs since a state law allowing physician-assisted deaths went into effect in June 2016, marking the first publicly released data on how the practice is playing out in the nation's most populous state.
The number represents only those who have contacted Compassion & Choices, an advocacy group that provides information on the process. The organization believes the overall figure to be much higher. State data has not yet been released.
How the new law is utilized in trend-setting California foreshadows what would happen if the practice spreads nationwide. Some see providing the choice to the dying as a logical evolution in a medical care system advanced in helping people live longer but limited in preventing slow, painful deaths.
Oregon was the first state to adopt such a law in 1997. It said 204 people received prescriptions in 2016 and, of those, 133 people died from ingesting the drugs, including 19 prescription recipients from prior years. Most were older than 65 and had cancer.
Doctor-assisted deaths are also legal in Colorado, Montana, Vermont, Washington state and Washington, D.C. —Modern Healthcare
NORTHEAST: CHS agrees to sell five more hospitals in Pennsylvania
Struggling Community Health Systems has agreed to sell five hospitals in Pennsylvania to the not-for-profit Reading Health System. The five hospitals are among 30 hospitals that Franklin, Tenn.-based CHS has agreed to sell to reduce $15 billion in debt. Terms were not disclosed.
They are 169-bed Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, 148-bed Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, 63-bed Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, 151-bed Phoenixville (Pa.) Hospital and 232-bed Pottstown (Pa.) Memorial Medical Center. Earlier this year, CHS agreed to sell two other of its hospitals in Pennsylvania to Boston-based Steward Health Care System as part of an eight-hospital deal.
CHS is selling hospitals with single-digit operating margins to improve its earnings and raise money to pay down its outsized debt. The system, the nation's second-largest investor-owned hospital company with 146 hospitals, posted a net loss of $1.7 billion in 2016. —Dave Barkholz
NORTHEAST: Swelling health plan losses batter Northwell's earnings
Health plan losses have struck another otherwise healthy hospital system: Northwell Health.
New York City-based Northwell posted an operating loss of $36.2 million in its fiscal first quarter, owing predominantly to a $22.7 million loss by its CareConnect plan for individuals and small groups and a $3.8 million loss by its other commercial plan.
Northwell joins a litany of hospital companies that are trying to stem mounting losses at health plans that they started in recent years to try to diversify into managed care and cater to the newly insured under the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansions in 32 states.
Phoenix-based Banner Health and Partners HealthCare System in Boston are trying to adjust premiums and cut costs that resulted in $100 million-plus losses by their health plans last year.
Catholic Health Initiatives of Englewood, Colo., and Tenet Healthcare Corp. in Dallas have their health plans for sale after years of losses dragged down their financial performance.
Northwell is counting on a proposed premium increase and some regulatory help for its money-losing CareConnect plan, Northwell spokesman Terry Lynam said.
CareConnect's main problem is a $124 million risk-adjustment payment that Northwell must pay the CMS this year for 2016 because its members are deemed less sick than populations served by other plans in New York, Lynam said. In the first quarter, the risk-adjustment liability was $29.4 million, a cost that dragged CareConnect into the red. —Dave Barkholz
NORTHEAST: Pennsylvania insurers buck trend for giant rate hikes with single-digit bump request
Insurers in Pennsylvania are requesting an average rate increase of 8.8% for individual plans and 6.6% for small group plans in 2018, bucking a national trend of double-digit increases on average. Insurers in Connecticut and Virginia have asked for rate increases exceeding 50% in some cases.
Pennsylvania's relatively small rate increase requests could jump if the Trump administration repeals the individual insurance mandate or fails to fund cost-sharing reduction subsidies, state Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said last week. That's the same warning that several other state insurance regulators and marketplace insurers have issued for months.
The five insurers that sold plans in Pennsylvania's individual market this year are all slated to return next year. Together, Capital Blue Cross, Geisinger Health Plan, Highmark Health Plan, Independence Blue Cross and UPMC Health Plan insure about 506,000 people in the state's individual market. The rate requests are not final.
Pennsylvania insurance regulators said the insurers would seek a 23.3% average rate increase statewide if the individual mandate is repealed, and a 20.3% rate increase if cost-sharing reductions are not paid to insurers. Without the mandate or cost-sharing subsidies, insurers estimated they would ask for rate increases of 36.3% on average. —Shelby Livingston