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  • HHS Seeks Comments on New Digital Strategy

    To help "cut loose content, work better, and put people first," the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking comments on how it provides public health information on the web.   

     HHS' initiative is part of the federal government's new digital strategy, which aims to shift the way government information is accessed and consumed. Instead of focusing on simply producing a final product, which has been common practice for years, the government's strategy now will be to make content more accurate, available, and secure. This strategy aims to "open doors for communication and give everyone the opportunity to use government information in a more meaningful way." 

    Visitors to HHS' digital strategy webpage can post their thoughts and suggestions for next steps under 4 areas that can be accessed by the tabs located at the top of the page—people first, mobile, open data, and working better. Specific to "open data," HHS is interested in the types of datasets that should be added to healthdata.gov.

    HHS will explain how the collective comments, along with the metrics it collects on user experience, influence the agency's work. 

    Mergers Help Companies 'Cope' With Smaller Profits, Compliance Costs

    Two mergers announced last week suggest that the health care industry is "increasingly turning to consolidation as a way to cope with smaller profit margins and higher compliance costs that many anticipate" when reforms under the Affordable Care Act take effect, says a Washington Post article.     

    Both acquisitions will affect the Washington, DC, area. On August 20, Aetna announced it will buy Maryland-based Coventry Health Care, which provides Medicare and Medicaid services, for $5.7 billion. Two days later, Health Care REIT announced an $845 million deal to acquire Sunrise Senior Living, which is based in McLean, Virginia. Sunrise manages 300 senior living facilities in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, including 25 in the Washington region. 

    The Coventry deal will add 5 million members to Aetna's existing pool of 36.7 million enrollees. The merger will help Aetna reduce overhead costs and boost Coventry's ability to market to more consumers on state-run health insurance exchanges, the article says.

    Aetna's planned purchase of Coventry follows similar announcements of large acquisitions. In October 2011, Cigna reached an agreement to acquire HealthSpring. Last month, WellPoint announced plans to acquire Amerigroup.

    Because a real estate investment trust such as Health Care REIT cannot both own and operate its real estate, Sunrise will likely continue to be run independently.

    Still, many health care experts predict nursing homes, senior communities, and other long-term care facilities will follow a similar path of consolidation because small and mid-size operators will struggle to afford compliance costs, the Post says.