News and Commentary

Headlines on Deadline August 2005

Things keep rolling along nicely for UnitedHealth Group, and possibly for the rest of the managed care industry as well. UnitedHealth posted a 36 percent increase in net profit in the second quarter. Net income went to $809 million, compared to $596 million for the same period last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. As the first major health insurer to report earnings, UnitedHealth is often seen as a harbinger for the industry.... More on UnitedHealth. Not everyone's enamored of the nation's second biggest health insurer. Consumer groups, for instance, have turned thumbs down to a merger of UnitedHealth and PacfiCare Health Systems. The California Medical Association also has doubts. "The merger troubles us. It places Wall Street's demand for profits ahead of Main Street's interest in good health care," Jack Lewin, MD, CMA's president, tells the Associated Press.... Many Americans believe in the urban myth that the "medical industry is withholding the cure for cancer from the public in order to increase profits," according to a survey published in the journal Cancer. Twenty-seven percent surveyed described that statement as true.... A new version of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy's Format for Formulary Submissions is available through the organization's Web site. The new format provides further clarification to manufacturers of the needs of health system formulary decision makers. "What health systems need is the comparative analysis of the product and the attending economics in a format that can be manipulated to make it relevant to their patient populations," says Richard Fry, director of programs for the Foundation for Managed Care Pharmacy, which provides training in the proper application of the new format.... Association health plans got a boost and a belt recently. The House voted 263–165 on July 26 to allow AHPs, which enable trade associations to pool their members in order to purchase insurance across state lines. AHPs would be regulated by the feds. Legislation allowing AHPs has made it through the House before, but not the Senate. President Bush insists that AHPs would work by allowing small companies to skirt hundreds of state regulations and mandates currently in place. Consumer groups argue that people would lose the protections that state oversight affords. In addition, a report issued by Georgetown University on the day the House voted says that AHPs would make businesses more vulnerable to scams. Stay tuned.

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