Weekend update

Spring has sprung here in DC!  Congress resumes its session on Monday.  Iran, the Medicare Part B doc fix bill, and reconciling the House and Senate budget resolutions will be on the front burner.

Last week, Optum, a UnitedHealth Group division, announced the acquisition of a walk in medical care center chain called Medexpress.  Medexpress, which several emergency room doctors started in West Virginia, has 141 locations in 11 states and it’s growing. The FEHBlog thought that Medexpress was Optum’s introduction to this business, but Healthcare Finance News illuminated the FEHBlog with news that Optum already has a chain of nine Optum walk-in clinics. The first Optum Clinic opened in Houston last year. The FEHBlog is skeptical about insurers getting into healthcare and healthcare systems getting into health insurance, but the ACA is driving this integration movement unquestionably.

It’s not just the FEHBlog’s viewpoint. Forbes reports that Walgreen’s CEO, Italian billionaire Stefano Pessina, is predicting more healthcare merger and acquisitions activity due to the ACA.  (Walgreens recently merged with a major European pharmacy chain Boots Alliance.)  Forbes and Drug Channels queries whether Walgreens may target Rite Aid for acquisition. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Express Scripts is based in St. Louis) examines whether Walgreens may target Express Scripts which of course would be humorous considering the battle between those companies just a few years ago following the Express Scripts Medco merger.) Time will tell.

On Friday, HHS issued a report to Congress blaming anti-competitive instincts of healthcare providers and their information technology developers for the electronic medical record interoperability mess according to the Nextgov.com report. However, “agency heads acknowledged there isn’t yet much quantifiable information about the practice.” The FEHBlog continues to credit the insights of AMA President elect Steven Stack who has explained that the federal government’s meaningful use standards, which IT developers strictly followed, failed to include interoperability standards because the government did not consider the individual user’s / doctor’s needs.