The Health Care Checkup is a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines.
Checking the Pulse
BJC finalizes farmington deal
BJC HealthCare has entered a deal to acquire its Farmington competitor Mineral Area Regional Medical Center, a 135-bed facility located about two miles from BJC’s 130-bed hospital, Parkland Health Center. The purchase would leave BJC as the sole hospital operator in Farmington. The deal is expected to close in about 60 days, according to a joint statement. The financial terms were not disclosed.
RiverVest leads investment in San Francisco pharma startup
Clayton-based venture capital firm RiverVest Venture Partners led a $20.4 million Series A funding round for San Francisco-based Lyric Pharmaceuticals. The startup, which was founded in 2013, is currently developing therapeutics for gastrointestinal indications. The money raised in this round will be used for supporting two clinical studies.
RiverVest focuses on biotech and pharmaceuticals startups. In 2014, the firm helped Lyric Pharmaceuticals raise $825,000 in seed funding.
Lawmakers push for more transparency on insurance prices
Last week in Jefferson City, the House Health Insurance Committee held a hearing on the measure that would mandate earlier disclosure of health insurance prices. The bill would require health insurers to “make available” plan rates for individual policies at least a month before enrollment begins. Currently, the federal government publish the pricing information only a few days before the enrollment starts, and the insurance companies often closely guard their rates until they can be sold to avoid being undercut on price by competitors. That can make it difficult for consumers to select a plan before signing up for the coverage.
Cerner expands business in Australia
Cerner has won a 10-year contract to provide a medication management system to hospitals in New South Wales, Australia. It’s the company’s first big contract since it completed the acquisition of Siemens Health Services. The value of the contract was not disclosed. Cerner is also said to be in the running for a contract a $11 billion contract to update the U.S. Department of Defense electronic health records. That contract is expected to be awarded this summer.
Missourian’s health insurance subsidies on the line
The court appeared split over the fate of President Barack Obama’s health overhaul in Wednesday’s hearing, which dealt a challenge to federal insurance subsidies to residents of states that didn’t establish their own insurance marketplaces.
The court’s decision, which is expected by late June, will determine whether millions of low- and middle-income people in more than thirty states, including 500,000 in Missouri, will continue to receive subsidies to help them buy help health insurance. If the court rules that such subsidies were not authorized by the health law, it would mark a substantial blow to the ACA.
Missouri’s doctor pipeline doesn’t always meet needs
Despite the number of medical school graduates increasing, Missouri is facing a doctor shortage. A large percent of medical students do not stay within the state after they graduate, thus making Missouri one of the states that has the lowest retention rates in the country.
The shortage is particularly critical in primary care, a field that does not provide many incentives for medical school graduates. A 2013 survey shows family medicine doctors made about half as much as their colleagues in specialties such as cardiology and orthopedics. According to the Missouri Foundation for Health, one in five Missourians live in an area with limited access to primary care.
In an effort to close the gap, Saint Louis University announced it will hire five additional primary care and internal medicine residents. But analysts say the gap won’t be closed anytime soon without significantly increasing pay for primary care doctors.