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Practice Rounds: Anthem Defends Merger with Cigna


Despite resistance from providers, patients, and the DOJ, Anthem is not giving up on merging with Cigna. Plus, CMS hands out star ratings.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Anthem Defends Merger with Cigna

Many healthcare providers, patients, and stakeholders are against the $54 billion proposed merger that would bring insurance giants, Cigna and Anthem, together. Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) declared it too was opposed to the merger, suing to block the proposed deal as well as the deal between Aetna and Humana. Despite this, Anthem isn't giving up. According to Law.com, Anthem took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to defend the proposed merger and protest the DOJ's lawsuit. In the ad, Anthem CEO and president, Joseph R. Swedish, said that they are committed to buying Cigna. Swedish told stock analysts the same thing on a recent call, according to the Hartford Courant, saying the trial over the suit will begin in October and last about four months.

CMS Handing Out Stars

Like your second grade teacher, CMS is handing out stars for doing well. The agency announced this week it has published rankings of hospitals based on the quality of care received at the "five different healthcare settings that most families encounter." The star ratings on Hospital Compare website summarizes the 64 quality measures that were already being reported on and creates a unified rating of one to five stars, CMS says. The measures fall into seven groups: mortality, readmission, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care, and efficient use of medical imaging.

DNC Doc Vouches for Bernie Sanders

While healthcare has essentially taken a back seat at this week's Democrat National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia to other issues, it is top of mind for Vinod Seth, an internist and infectious disease physician in Bismarck, N.D., and a delegate at the DNC. Dr. Seth explained in a blog on Medical Economics why he has been a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Bernie was the right candidate to support, 'Obamacare' never went far enough," Seth writes. He says that being sick is hard enough, without struggling with economic concerns that hurt both patients and doctors. He went to the DNC to advocate for "Medicare for all."

Florida Might Have Zika Outbreak

Health officials in Florida are investigating two cases of Zika-infected patients that may have been spread by local mosquitos. Most of the people infected with the virus in the U.S. contracted the disease through travel to affected areas or by sexual transmission. However, the latest two patients along with two earlier cases, suggest that local mosquitos may be carrying the disease, USA Today reports. Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration is asking blood centers to not accept donations from people who have travelled to Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the past four weeks.

Quote of the Week:

Four Technologies You Should Be Using in Your Practice

"To me, the worst thing [a practice can] say is 'Oh don't worry about it, we'll send you a bill after your insurance pays.' I think the patient has a right to know what to expect, and if they are not expecting to pay the full freight at the office visit, they may be really shocked."

Mary Pat Whaley, a Durham, N.C.-based practice management consultant

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