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Healthcare Roundup: Medical Office Space in Demand, Blues Companies See Lower Income, Two Sides of Health Insurance, and More

Medical Office Space Still in Demand â€" One indication that physicians as a whole are still doing ok is that medical office buildings are not having the same loan problems that other commercial real estate has. According to Real Capital Analytics, a New York research firm, only one percent of the assets in medical office space, worth about $200 million, are considered troubled, compared to $18 billion in the non-medical office sector. Occupancy of medical buildings is also high. For example, a medical office project in Atlanta called Perimeter Town Center that opened last October is already 70 percent leased. [Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Blues Companies Have The $$ Blues â€" Blue Cross Blue Shield companies posted an aggregate net income decline of 41 percent in 2008, compared with 2007, according to ratings agency A.M. Best Co. Decreases in underwriting and investment income, as well as realized losses, were blamed for the earnings plunge. But it appears that the biggest contributor was investment losses, which accounted for 19 percent of the drop. Net premiums written increased 6.6 percent, and the medical loss ratio (the percentage of premiums paid out in claims) was slightly lower. Nevertheless, the amount of capital and surplus on hand fell 10.3 percent to $41.6 billion--the lowest level seen in three years. [Source: A.M. Best Co.]

Two Sides of Health Insurance â€" Trying to counter attacks on the insurance industry from the Obama Administration, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry trade association, released results of a survey showing that some providers charged incredibly high fees. Based on data from 10 insurers doing business in 30 states, the study found charges that were more than 10,000 times Medicare's fee level for a procedure and more than 2,000 times Medicare fees for other services. One purpose of the study was to show how patients get stuck with very high charges when out-of-network providers refuse to accept their reimbursement by insurers as full payment. On the other side of the coin, a new government survey shows that health plans refused to cover 12.6 million non-elderly adults who tried to buy their own insurance.[Sources: Fierce Healthcare, Healthcare Finance News]

No Mandatory Overtime for Nurses â€" Texas and Pennsylvania both recently prohibited mandatory overtime for nurses. The Texas law goes into effect at the end of August, and Pennsylvania's statute became effective July 1. Hospitals have resisted such laws in the past, because they don't want their flexibility limited, but state nursing associations have been working with them to develop more palatable language. The issue is whether forcing nurses to work overtime compromises patient care. [Source: Healthcare Finance News]

Nashville Medical Trade Center â€" Market Center Management, a Dallas-based firm, is planning to open a Medical Trade Center in Nashville early next year. It is exploring the possibility of leasing the Nashville Convention Center, which would be available after a new convention center is built in Music City. David Osborn, former head of a think tank linked to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, has been hired as an adviser to the project. The Medical Trade Center would showcase medical devices and other new healthcare technologies year round, and would also host medical conventions, seminars, and CME programs. [Source: The Tennessean]