AHA to Congress: Mergers part of building health care continuum   09/19/2013
Health care providers are transforming health care delivery to improve quality and lower costs, and mergers and acquisitions are often essential to make these goals a reality, an AHA witness today told the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. “There’s no question that the health care field is undergoing a period of fundamental transformation in which the very model of health care delivery is being changed in order to improve quality and lower costs,” said Sharis Pozen, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who formerly led the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, testifying on behalf of AHA for a hearing on consolidation in health care. Providers often choose consolidation as one way to gain enhanced efficiencies and quality “because regulatory barriers can keep hospitals and doctors from working closely together unless they are under the same ownership umbrella,” Pozen said. Still, only 12% of the nation’s nearly 5,000 hospitals were involved in a merger or acquisition between 2007 and June 2013, “and far from being anti-competitive, these activities can have real benefits for the affected patients and communities,” she said. For more on the issue, see a study conducted for the AHA by the Center for Healthcare Economics and Policy, which was updated today.
SEC finalizes rule requiring municipal advisors to register   09/19/2013
The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday adopted a final rule requiring municipal advisors to register with the agency. Though not yet posted in its final form, the rule applies to third-party, professional financial advisors to hospitals and bond issuing authorities, according to an SEC description. As recommended by the AHA, it excludes from the definition of "municipal advisor" governing board members and employees of obligated hospitals. The rule will be posted at www.sec.gov/rules/final.shtml and become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
NIH testing H7N9 bird flu vaccine candidate   09/19/2013
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is testing a candidate vaccine for H7N9 bird flu, the National Institutes of Health announced yesterday. “H7N9 avian influenza virus – like all novel influenza virus strains to which people have not been exposed – has the potential to cause widespread sickness and mortality,” said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, M.D. “We are now testing a vaccine candidate with and without adjuvant in an effort to prepare for and, hopefully, protect against this possibility.” Human cases of H7N9 flu emerged in China in February. As of Aug. 12, 135 confirmed human cases, including 44 deaths, have been reported by the World Health Organization. Most of the cases involve people who had contact with infected poultry. To date, no cases have been reported outside of China and the virus has not demonstrated sustained person-to-person transmission. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued diagnostic, infection control and treatment recommendations for patients with suspected H7N9 flu.
Study estimates readmissions rate for major surgical procedures   09/19/2013
About 13% of patients hospitalized for a major surgical procedure are readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, according to a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine. That’s the median composite readmission rate at 30 days for Medicare patients undergoing one of six major surgical procedures in 2009 and 2010: coronary-artery bypass grafting, pulmonary lobectomy, endovascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm, open repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm, colectomy, and hip replacement. Hospitals with high surgical volume and low surgical mortality had lower rates of surgical readmission than other hospitals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services plans to include some surgical procedures as it expands its readmissions penalty program.