GENERAL: Monday morning grab-bag

I’ll be back tomorrow (hopefully) with some interesting stuff about the argument around drug prices, but for now, here’s a varied few shorts that you can look at.

TECHNOLOGY: Physician to patient communication online continues to make slow but visible progress.  Pioneer Relay Health (the former  Healinx) continues to make sales (requires free reg).

INDUSTRY/POLICY: Harris Interactive has an interesting survey taken amongst the audience of the latest mover and shaker health conference in Washington (the Global Health Congress). The consensus is (drumroll please)
–health spending will go up fast
–uninsurance will go up to 18% and the rate of employer-based insurance will go down
–drug price differentials between the US and Europe will erode in the next 10 years
–more for-profit hospitals (as a share of all hospitals)
–more for-profit insurers (as a share of all insurers)
and by far the most significant  opportunity will be the adoption of information technology

INDUSTRY: There are fears that specialty hospitals will gut community hospitals leading to a death spiral in the non-profit sector (with consequent negative impacts on charity care for the poor).  That lead to the moratorium on new specialty hospitals in the recent Medicare bill.  But the news from that upstart sector suggests that things might not be going so well there.  MedCath, the largest player in the specialty heart-hospital lost money last quarter because of a rise in the use and price of drug-eluting stents and other expensive supplies.

HEALTH PLANS:  You know that I’m a little bearish on health plans.  While the sectors stock average is still relatively stable, Cigna had a very bad day at the office on Friday.  Despite the fact that it beat earnings expectations, Wall Street hated the fact that it’s losing enrollment at a fast rate, and looks to be losing more.  It also took a charge to lay off over 3,000 employees.  The stock tanked nearly 10%. By the way, I’ve been hunting for a stock index for the health plan sector.  Anybody know of one? Please email me.

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