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Healthcare Roundup: Aetna-Microsoft Tie-Up, HCS Buys TMG Health, Navigenics Does Sequencing, and More

Aetna ties up with Microsoft online-health records -- The big health-insurance firm Aetna said it will start allowing many of its members to transfer medical records kept by the insurer to Microsoft's HealthVault, a portable online health-record system. The information in question includes claims, diagnoses, test results and prescriptions. [Source: WSJ Health Blog]

Health Care Service acquires TMG Health -- An operator of Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans in four states, Health Care Service Corp., agreed to buy TMG Health, which processes health claims for Medicare, Medicaid and private health-insurance plans. Health Care Service exited the claims-processing business almost a decade ago after paying $140 million in civil and criminal fines to settle claims-related fraud allegations. [Sources: Modern Healthcare, Chicago Tribune]

Navigenics adds gene-sequencing to personal genomics -- The personal-genomics startup Navigenics said it will begin sequencing known disease genes for its customers. To date, the company's service has involved analysis of single base-pair variants that only give a rough idea of an individual's genetic quirks. [Source: Genetic Future]

Walgreen acquires McKesson's specialty-drug unit -- The drugstore giant Walgreen will pay an undisclosed amount for a McKesson pharmacy business that handles less commonly used drugs for cancer and chronic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. [Source: Modern Healthcare]

Insured patients responsible for ER crowding -- Most people seem to think that uninsured individuals are the ones filling emergency-room waiting areas, but in fact people with insurance account for the majority of increased ER use over the past decade. Roughly 75 percent of the rise in ER use can be attributed to "increased use per person," most of them insured -- although Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were the largest part of that. Researchers suggest that people are turning to the ER largely because it takes too long to secure an appointment with their primary doctor. [Source: kaisernetwork.org]

Med-school enrollment booms -- Enrollment in U.S. medical schools rose 1.6 percent last year to a record 17,759 first-year med students. Eleven medical schools increased enrollment by 10 percent or more. [Sources: Bloomberg, kaisernetwork.org]

Cost of presidential-candidate health plans "almost meaningless" -- For the dog-bite-man department: Both the Obama and McCain campaigns tout cost and enrollment statistics for their respective health plans that are generally little more than rough estimates generated by health economists, who themselves are often partisan or financially conflicted. Color us shocked. [Source: NYT]

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