Health Care Checkup: Express Scripts debuts building, Prime faces new suit

The Health Care Checkup, a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines, is sponsored by Heyen Wellness Therapies.

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Bearish Express Scripts unveils first building in $56 million expansion

The second quarter of 2014 wasn’t kind to Express Scripts, as the pharmacy benefit manager’s holding company reported profits down 5.1 percent year over year amid drops in prescription claims and revenue. Express Scripts tied the loss of prescriptions to severing ties with UnitedHealth Group, one of its largest clients.

Flying in the face of bad news, Express Scripts also took the wraps off a new office building and another expanded facility at its headquarters, all part of an expansion plan expected to cost $56 million and bring more than 1,500 jobs to Missouri in the next few years. The company received $6.8 million in tax incentives from the state to construct the new building, and if its projections for new jobs are met it could receive as much as another $24.7 million in tax credits.

Venture capital for St. Louis health care startups at its highest in four years

To date, 2014 has been a boom year for health care startups across the Midwest, as a record $777 million funneled its way to them from venture capital firms in the year’s first half. St. Louis has led the way among Missouri cities despite a slow start to the year, with $85 million in venture capital money so far, the highest amount raised since 2010.

Most of that figure can be attributed to the $71 million raised by Lumeris, which makes tools designed to help health care providers make smarter decisions and function more efficiently in value-based care contracts. Other notable investments included $8 million to ISTO Technologies, $5 million to Veran Medical Technologies, $1 million for Confluence Life Sciences and $50,000 invested in MedSocket.

Prime Healthcare comes under fire with layoff lawsuit

Just days after announcing the acquisition of a pair of Kansas City-area hospitals from Carondelet Health, Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare Services Inc. is being sued for its handling of a similar previous purchase. While the hurdles of Federal Trade Commission approval and nonprofit-to-for-profit conversion still await Prime, two former employees at Providence Medical Center and Saint John Hospital sued the health care provider for failing to give severance pay after it acquired the pair of Kansas hospitals last year. The suit is seeking class action status in order to include the other employees— 49 in all —reportedly let go without severance pay.

This isn’t the first time the legality of Prime’s practices have been called into question. The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a probe into the company’s billing system in 2011. Last year, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System sued Prime for breach of contract after Prime bought two Sisters of Charity hospitals but allegedly failed to keep its end of a billing agreement.

VA healthcare overhaul passes Congress

In an overhaul described by Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., as “some of the most significant changes to (the Department of Veterans Affairs) in decades,” both the House and Senate passed legislation changing how — and for how long — veterans wait for care from VA hospitals. The new law is a response to a nationwide VA access audit released in June that found more than 57,000 veterans waiting 90 days or more for their first appointments at VA hospitals. St. Louis’s VA system ranked fifth worst in the study out of the 141 systems audited, with veterans new to the system waiting almost three months for appointments.

The reform bill, expected to cost approximately $16.3 billion, includes $10 billion to help veterans find care from non-VA hospitals if the system can’t provide a prompt appointment, $5 billion to hire more medical professionals and $1.3 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country. The bill now goes before President Obama for final approval and signing.


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