Week in review: 12 biggest healthcare stories this week

Stay in the know with Becker's Hospital Review's weekly roundup of the nation's biggest healthcare news. Here's what you need to know this week.

1. 15 state attorneys general join DOJ's probe of health insurer mergers
Attorneys general from approximately 15 states are working with the Department of Justice in its review of Aetna's $54.2 billion bid for Humana and Anthem's $37 billion plan to buy Cigna, according to Reuters. The attorneys general will give the DOJ data on how the choice to approve the acquisitions could affect the insurance market — including higher prices or other harm to customers — in each state.

2. 55 hospitals sue HHS over changes to Medicare reimbursements
Fifty-five hospitals from across the nation have filed a lawsuit against HHS over its decision to reduce Medicare payments for inpatient treatment to account for the adoption of the controversial two-midnight rule. In their lawsuit, the hospitals argue the 2014 IPPS rule did not provide adequate explanation of the basis for CMS' estimate that the proposed two-midnight rule would result in additional inpatient admissions each year.

3. CMS' Andy Slavitt hints at MU's finale: 6 things to know
CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said Tuesday the meaningful use program will soon come to an end. The program will be "replaced with something better," he said during his Jan. 11 address at the J.P. Morgan Annual Health Care Conference in San Francisco. The government is seeking to simplify a program around EHRs by aligning and streamlining existing programs to develop a new model that offers flexibility and is adaptable to providers' practices and populations. To read more about what's next, see "The new MU: What's next for providers and EHRs.

4. 209,000 providers face MU payment cuts in 2016
CMS reports 209,000 eligible professionals face a 2 percent payment adjustment in Medicare reimbursement in 2016 for failing to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014. Politico calculates approximately two out of five providers eligible for the meaningful use program will see these reimbursement adjustments.

5. CMS announces Next Generation ACO participants
CMS officially launched its Next Generation Accountable Care Organization Model this year with the selection of the first 21 participating ACOs. The ACOs selected have significant experience with accountable care through initiatives such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Pioneer program. ACOs in the program will take on higher levels of financial risk and reward in an effort to move more fee-for-service Medicare payments into alternative payment models by the end of the year.

6. athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush administers CPR to man suffering heart attack
While he was in San Francisco for the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Jonathan Bush, cofounder and CEO of athenahealth, put his emergency medical training to use when he noticed a main who suffered an apparent heart attack. Mr. Bush saw a man on the ground outside a convenience store and administered CPR to him until the paramedics arrived.

7. 8 healthcare takeaways from the 2016 State of the Union Address
In his eighth and final State of the Union Address Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama painted his vision for the U.S., touching on some of his biggest successes and regrets from his time in office. He touched on several healthcare topics, such as the progress made by the Affordable Care Act, the importance of basic benefits like Social Security and Medicare, innovative developments in cancer therapies and the need to work with other countries to make global progress in healthcare.

8. Advocate Health Care to run 56 metro Chicago Walgreens clinics: 6 things to know
Walgreens is outsourcing 56 in-store healthcare clinics across the greater Chicagoland area to Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care.The clinics, branded as Advocate Clinic at Walgreens, will continue to offer walk-ins and same-day appointment scheduling and will open under Advocate Health Care in May 2016.

9. Independence Blue Cross first payer to cover whole genome sequencing
Independent Blue Cross and Culver City, Calif.-based NantHealth have agreed to provide insurance coverage for a comprehensive whole genome and proteome diagnostic platform to diagnose molecular differences in an individual's cancer and identify personalized therapies.

10. At least 87 Legionnaires' cases, 10 deaths linked to Flint water crisis
Amid the ongoing lead poisoning crisis related to toxic water in Flint, Mich., residents received more troubling news from Gov. Rick Snyder at a Wednesday press conference: In the two years since Flint diverted its water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River, there has been an uptick in cases of Legionnaires' disease in GeneseeCounty. At least 87 residents developed Legionnaires' disease, of which 10 cases were fatal, from June 2014 to November 2015, compared to only 13 cases in the preceding four years. To read about what this crisis has been like for hospitals and physicians, see "7 questions with a pediatrician in the thick of Flint's lead poisoning crisis.

11. La. governor starts process to expand Medicaid
New Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed an executive order to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Under the expansion, 298,000 uninsured adults in Louisiana will be eligible for Medicaid, according to The New York Times, which cites an analysis last year by the state's Legislative Fiscal Office. Additionally, 224,000 other adults with private insurance would also be eligible.

12. CVS affiliates with 4 health providers
CVS Health entered into new clinical affiliations with four health providers from across the nation, including Walnut Creek, Calif.-based John Muir Health, University of Chicago Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health and Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan Health System. Through these clinical affiliations, CVS Health will provide prescription and visit information to the participating health systems by enabling communication between its EHR systems.

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