Week in review: 9 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. American with Ebola arrives in Maryland for care
An American healthcare worker who was volunteering in Sierra Leone in an Ebola treatment unit contracted the virus and was flown back to the U.S. Friday morning. The patient, who has not been named, was admitted to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., at 4:44 a.m. ET. The patient's condition was still being evaluated upon admission, according to NIH. NIH Clinical Center has a Special Clinical Studies Unit that is designed to provide high-level isolation and has a staff of infectious disease and clinical care specialists. Nina Pham, a nurse who contracted Ebola while working at Dallas-based Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, was successfully treated for the virus at NIH.

2. Prime backs out of controversial hospital deal in California
Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare Services backed out on a deal to acquire Los Altos, Calif.-based Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals. The sale of the DCHS facilities is the largest transaction the California Attorney General's office has ever reviewed. The deal was conditionally approved in February, but the approval contained stern stipulations for the transaction. After considering the deal for two weeks, Prime decided not to pursue the deal. Prem Reddy, MD, chairman, president and CEO of Prime, said the conditions imposed on the deal "are so burdensome and restrictive that it would be impossible for Prime Healthcare — or any buyer — to make the changes needed to operate and save these hospitals," according to a CBS Los Angeles report. Robert Issai, president and CEO of DCHS, had previously told the San Jose Mercury News that if the deal with prime didn't materialize, DCHS would be facing a "meltdown" situation, likely resulting in the system filing for bankruptcy.

3. CMS unveils Next Generation ACO program
The Next Generation Accountable Care Organization Model, a new initiative from CMS Innovation Center, is part of HHS' efforts to shift 50 percent of all Medicare provider payments to an alternative payment model by 2018. The Next Generation ACO Model is designed for ACOs that are already experienced in coordinating care. They will take on more performance risk than ACOs in current models, but have the potential to share in a greater portion of savings. The goal is to assess whether strong financial incentives for ACOs, combined with tools to support better patient engagement and care management, can improve outcomes and reduce spending. CMS expects between 15 and 20 ACOs to participate. The model is made up of three initial performance years and two optional one-year extensions.

4. HHS: Nearly 11.7M people signed up for PPACA health insurance coverage
Nearly 11.7 million people had either signed up or were automatically re-enrolled for health insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as of Feb. 22, according to a HHS report. Of those 11.7 million people, 76 percent — or 8.84 million — were in the 37 states using HealthCare.gov and 24 percent (2.85 million) were in the 14 states, including Washington, D.C., that operate state-run marketplaces for 2015. According to the report, nearly 7.7 million individuals with a 2015 plan selection in the states using HealthCare.gov qualified for an advanced premium tax credit with an average value of $263 per person per month. More than half — 55 percent — paid $100 or less for their health plan per month after tax credits.

5. St. Mary's Health reports email hack breaching 4,400 patients' data
Evansville, Ind.-based St. Mary's Health reported a cyberattack on employees' emails, exposing 4,400 patients' data. Several employees' usernames and passwords were compromised in a previous email attack Dec. 3, 2014, and those emails contained patients' personal information, including names, birth date, gender, date of service, insurance information, "limited" health information and some Social Security Numbers. According to the hospital, no individual health or billing records were accessed.

6. Two bills scrutinize healthcare spending transparency, interoperability
Congress is chiming in on the interoperability debate and criticizing the administration's lack of healthcare spending disclosure with two new bills. The first bill, initiated by Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas), aims to define interoperability as the ability to access patient data in one location "without the need for multiple interfaces." According to Politico, it also bans the blocking of interfaces with other EHRs. The second bill, introduced by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.), is called the "Quality Data, Quality Healthcare Act," meant to improve healthcare spending transparency. Rep. Baldwin and Rep. Thune claim spending transparency is a crucial first step to improving quality while lowering costs.

7. 1,965 jobs open at Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic has nearly 2,000 job openings with 527 openings for registered nurses, according to Fortune. Mayo is seeking to add registered and licensed practical nurses, physicians/scientists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, labs/research staff and administrative positions, including IT, information security and medical coding.

8. Zimmer sells $7.65B of senior notes for Biomet merger
Zimmer is selling $7.65 billion of senior notes in connection with its pending merger with Biomet. The senior notes were sold in an unwritten public offering through Citigroup Global Markets, Credit Suisse Securities, J.P. Morgan Securities and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith. The offer is expected to close March 15, 2015. Zimmer plans to use net proceeds from the offering to finance a portion of the cash consideration of the merger with LVB Acquisition, Biomet's parent company. Zimmer will also pay expenses incurred from the merger and pay a portion of LVB's funded debt. The notes offering will occur whether or not the Biomet merger is completed, and the deal is expected to go through in the first quarter of this year.

9. 23andMe to develop drugs based on genetic database
Personal genetics startup 23andMe will soon begin using its aggregated data to develop medications. 23andMe, backed by Google and based in Mountain View, Calif., offers genetic testing and sells genetic data to pharmaceutical companies. Now the company will start the process of drug discovery. According to Forbes, 23andMe hired Richard Scheller, who led drug discovery at Genentech for 14 years, as chief scientific officer and head of therapeutics.

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