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Healthcare Roundup: Aetna Slammed by Senate Committee, $600M for Community Centers, Nurses Unite, NJ Court Boosts ASCs and More

Aetna Spends Less on Care Than It Claimed - Just as the U.S. Senate is considering a new reform bill amendment that would require insurers to spend 90 percent of the premium dollar on patient care, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation reports that Aetna overstated in regulatory filings the amount it paid for the care of small-business employees by $4.9 billion. Aetna responded that it had accidentally reported that amount under the column of large-employer business and that it has already corrected the error. But that doesn't explain why the mistake lowered the insurance company's medical-loss ratio from 82 percent to 79 percent, according to the committee. [Source: Wall Street Journal]

More Funds For Community Health Centers - President Obama announced that the government would provide almost $600 million to about 500 community health centers for renovations and electronic health records. Of this amount, which comes from the funds allocated for economic stimulus, $509 million will be spent to repair, rebuild or replace federal qualified community health centers. The other $88 million will support adoption of EHRs. About 40 percent of community health center patients are uninsured. [Source: Washington Post] Nurses Unite, But Conn. Training Funds Are Cut - The California Nurses Association, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and United American Nurses agreed to combine their unions into an umbrella group representing 150,000 nurses nationwide. The unions, which approved the merger at a conference in Phoenix, AZ, said they wanted to have a greater voice in policies involving healthcare quality and other aspects of patient care. Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell suspended a state-subsidized nurse training program to save $1.7 million as the state struggles with a $600 million deficit. [Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Hartford Courant]

New Jersey Court Defends Surgery Centers - In a ruling that some observers believe has national implications, a New Jersey appeals court upheld a lower court decision that found that physician owners of ambulatory surgery centers did not commit fraud by billing for services done pursuant to referrals they made to their own facilities. The court also dismissed the claims of plaintiff insurer Health Net that the Wayne (NJ) Surgical Center committed fraud by waiving copayments to incentivize patients to use their facility. [Source: American Medical News]

Tufts Hospital Builds Critical Mass - Signature Healthcare, which includes Brockton (MA) Hospital and the 150-doctor Signature Medical Group, has formed a clinical affiliation with Tufts Medical Center in Boston and its Floating Hospital for Children. Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, MA, signed a similar pact last month. The affiliation deals provide access to additional specialty and advanced care. [Source: Boston Globe]

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