Week in review: 8 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. Theranos under fire: 10 things to know about the story everyone's talking about
The Wall Street Journal published a report Oct. 15 detailing alleged inconsistencies between Theranos' claims and its actual operations. Theranos, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based blood test startup founded by Stanford-dropout Elizabeth Holmes, claims its Edison blood test can perform more than 240 blood tests with a finger prick's worth of blood. However, WSJ reported the Edison blood test accounts for only a fraction of Theranos' testing, and the rest of its blood tests are conducted on traditional machines from companies like Siemens AG, which require normal blood draws with needles. The WSJ report also claims Theranos dilutes samples for 60 tests to hit liquid volume requirements to run on the traditional machines, which increases the margin of error. Four former employees told WSJ the Edison device was used for just 15 types of tests in December 2014. Theranos disputes that assertion, but declined to specify how many it handles. For more details on the WSJ story, click here.

2. Democratic debate: What 5 presidential frontrunners had to say about healthcare
Five leading Democratic presidential candidates participated in the first Democratic debate Tuesday night, hosted by CNN and Facebook. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), former governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb (Va.) and former governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee all took to the stage. The candidates discussed numerous topics, and healthcare was relatively overshadowed, receiving fewer than 15 mentions throughout the debate. Ms. Clinton and Sen. Sanders received the most talking time, and also spoke the most on certain healthcare issues, including universal healthcare, prescription drug prices, the idea of expanding ACA coverage to undocumented immigrants and maternal leave policies.

3. Dell to buy EMC for $67B: 6 things to know about the biggest tech deal ever
Computer technology company Dell and corporate IT business EMC signed a definitive agreement for Dell to purchase EMC for $67 billion in the biggest deal in technology history. The acquisition helps Dell transform from a consumer PC business to an IT solutions provider, according to CNN Money. EMC makes servers, owns security company RSA and has an 81 percent stake in VMware, the company responsible for the software that allows businesses to run multiple operating systems on their devices at once.

4. Jeb Bush offers plan to repeal, replace ACA
Former Florida governor and current Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act and issued a broad proposal this week to replace it. Mr. Bush's campaign said his plan to repeal and replace the ACA would accomplish three things: promote innovation, lower costs and return power to states, according to The Washington Post. He said he would give states more power in establishing an ACA replacement plan. He would leave states in charge of overseeing a "transition plan" for people who currently get coverage under the law, according to The Wall Street Journal.

5. Number of 5-star hospitals decreases dramatically in CMS Hospital Compare update
CMS updated its Hospital Compare database Oct. 8 with new patient experience survey results, and the number of hospitals receiving a five-star HCAHPS summary rating is down significantly since the last update in July. When the ratings first went live in April, 251 hospitals earned the highest available rating of five stars. When the data were updated in July that number rose to 336. However, with the latest HCAHPS data from January 2014 through December 2014, just 207 hospitals out of 3,539 earned a five-star HCAHPS summary star rating.

6. Utah Medicaid expansion proposal fails
Utah's Medicaid expansion proposal, Utah Access Plus, didn't pass among House Republicans. The plan would have made $450 available to the state and expanded coverage to nearly 100,000 low-income Utah residents. Of the 63 House Republicans, only seven voted in favor of Utah Access Plus during a four hour closed caucus meeting.

7. Safety-net hospital patients have worse outcomes: Study suggests 'intrinsic qualities' are to blame
Safety-net hospitals have higher mortality and readmission rates, as well as higher costs associated with surgical care. These outcomes remained even after adjusting data for patient characteristics and hospital procedure volume, according to a study in JAMA Surgery. "These outcomes are likely owing to hospital resources and not necessarily patient factors. In addition, impending changes to reimbursement may have a negative effect on the surgical care at these centers," the study concludes.

8. 2 Humana shareholders sue to prevent Aetna deal
Two shareholders of Louisville, Ky.-based Humana filed a lawsuit to stop Aetna's purchase of Humana, claiming the acquisition isn't a good deal for shareholders, according to The Courier-Journal. One shareholder, John Solak, said the acquisition "greatly undervalues Humana." The suit claimed the ACA "has been a boon to Humana, as its stock price has nearly quadrupled since the act was signed into law," but the acquisition will make shareholders accept a "grossly inadequate" price as holders in the new company.

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