KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

UnitedHealth Acquisitions Draw Scrutiny

UnitedHealth Group's acquisition of a Calif. physician group and two Florida health plans are making news, and Maine's top court sides with regulators' authority to reject one Anthem's rate increases there.

The Wall Street Journal: Insurer Battles Physician Group
A clash between health insurer Blue Shield of California and a doctor group that sold its operations to UnitedHealth Group Inc. highlights emerging tensions as lines blur between health insurers and medical providers (Mathews, 2/29).

Reuters: UnitedHealth To Buy Two Florida Health Plans
UnitedHealth Group Inc plans to buy two Florida health plans to increase its U.S. market-leading position in providing Medicare plans for the elderly. Health insurers have been striking deals to boost their Medicare operations as the baby boom generation born after World War II becomes eligible for the government program, swelling its ranks. UnitedHealth's acquisitions fortify its strong position in Florida, where about 10 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries live, according to Goldman Sachs analyst Matthew Borsch (Krauskopf, 2/28).

The Miami Herald: UnitedHealthcare Buys Preferred Care, Medical HMOs
UnitedHealthcare, the giant nationwide insurer, is making a major move in South Florida by announcing Tuesday it has agreed to purchase two Miami-Dade based Medicare and Medicaid insurance plans that have more than 100,000 members and eight clinics. ... Preferred Care Partners has 55,000 Medicare members in its health maintenance organization in South and Central Florida and another 5,000 members in its Medicaid HMO (Dorschner, 2/28).

Kaiser Health News: Maine's Top Court Backs State Authority To Limit Health Plan's Profits
In a case closely watched by the insurance industry, Maine's top court Tuesday upheld state regulators' authority to hold down rate increases sought by Anthem Health Plans of Maine. In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said that Maine's insurance superintendent had 'properly balanced the competing interests' in arriving at an approved rate increase of 5.2 percent (Appleby, 2/28).

In Massachusetts, two hospitals are proposing a merger —

Modern Healthcare: Hospital Moves Forward On Mass. General Deal
Cooley Dickinson Hospital, a 142-bed hospital in Northampton, Mass., took the first step toward a merger with Massachusetts General Hospital. After a three-year process involving seven potential partners, the Cooley Dickinson board of trustees voted Monday to move forward with an affiliation agreement with Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital, a 907-bed hospital that is part of the Partners HealthCare System, according to a news release (Lee, 2/28).

Boston Globe: Northampton Hospital, MGH To Pursue Merger
Trustees at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton have voted to negotiate a merger with Massachusetts General Hospital, an alliance that would extend the reach of Mass. General and its powerful parent, Partners HealthCare, beyond Eastern Massachusetts. The deal could send more Cooley Dickinson patients to Boston to receive treatment for cancer, heart disease, and other conditions, boosting Mass. General traffic at a time when it is under pressure from lower-cost competitors (Weisman, 2/29).

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