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In Memoriam
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Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Determining if Drug Price Increases are Justified
Court Overturns CMS' Site-Neutral Payment Policy
Pulmonary Disease Linked to Vaping
CEO Compensation-One Reason Healthcare Costs So Much
Doctor or Money Shortage in California?
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Resigns
Physicians Generate an Average $2.4 Million a Year Per Hospital
Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit


For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.


Entries in competition (2)


Withdraw of Insurers from ACA Markets Leaving Many Southwest Patients with Few or No Choices

Thirty-one percent of the nation’s counties are projected to have only one insurer offering health plans on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) exchanges next year, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation (1). Another 31% are projected to have only be only two. Most of the likely one-insurer counties are predominantly rural (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Estimated number of insurers participating in Affordable Care Act exchanges by county, 2017.

Particularly hard hit is Arizona where most of the rural portions of the state will have only one insurer and Pinal County will have none. Rural Nevada is similarly affected along with Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma and much of the Southeast US.

That would give exchange customers in large areas of the U.S. far less choice than they had this year, when only 7% of counties had one insurer and 29% had two (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Net changes in number of insurers compared to 2016.

Many insurers are losing money on the health plans they sell through the exchanges. Insurance giants UnitedHealth, Humana, and Aetna have cited heavy losses as the reason for withdrawing from ACA marketplaces (2). The insurers that remain are in some cases seeking sharp premium increases for next year, trying to get back in the black amid higher-than-expected costs.

The marketplaces were supposed to hold down prices and expand choice by fostering competition among insurers. A concern when the exchanges were set up was that they might eventually reach the "tipping point". This is the point where too many sick patients with high health care costs are enrolled in the exchanges. Their high costs lead to higher insurance premiums driving the young and healthy enrollees out of the exchanges. According to the insurers the young and healthy enrollees low costs are necessary to balance out claims ledgers. President Obama has called for the creation of a public insurance option to compete alongside private plans in places where competition is limited.


  1. Cox C, Semanskee A. Preliminary data on insurer exits and entrants in 2017 affordable care act marketplaces. Kaiser Health News. August 28, 2016. Avialble at: (accessed 8/29/16).
  2. Mathews AW, Armour S. Health insurers’ pullback threatens to create monopolies. Wall Street Journal. August 28, 2016. Available at: (accessed 8/29/16).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Withdraw of insurers from ACA markets leaving many southwest patients with few or no choices. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(2):97-8. doi: PDF 


Banner Health, University of Arizona Health Network to Merge

On Thursday, June 26, the Arizona Board of Regents and the University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN) Board unanimously gave the go ahead to formal negotiations with Banner Health. Under the proposed agreement Banner will acquire the University of Arizona Medical Center and its south campus, which have 624 beds between them, UAHN's faculty practice, University Physicians Healthcare and the system's three health plans. Initial terms of the agreement stipulate that Banner will spend at least $500 million toward capital projects in the next five years, and it will pay $300 million to establish an academic endowment (1). UAHN’s long-term debt, totaling about $146 million, will be absorbed by Banner. UAHN and Banner said plan on reaching a definitive agreement by September.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart was quoted by Tucson News Now as saying, "These 30 years which this agreement anticipates are going to be among the most transformational in health care in America experienced in the last century. And we're absolutely committed to be the leaders in that environment. This is extremely exciting. And I hope you can feel our commitment. We are going to make the future. We are not going to be recipients of the future made by others" (2). We have a solution to expand our capabilities to move care to a higher level, to advance research for our community and our state and to educate the future health care professionals for the state of Arizona," said UAHN President and CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum.

Under the agreement Banner will commit to the "employment of the employees of UAHN and its subsidiaries for at least six months after closing at their current base salaries and retention of their seniority for employee benefits purposes. " (1). The proposal also includes a severance package for any employees who are laid off after that six-month period.

Banner owns 25 hospitals in seven states. In total, the proposed transaction is expected to generate about $1 billion in new capital, academic investments and other consideration and value beneficial to UA and the community, a news release said. The resulting organization will employ more than 37,000 people, after adding 6,300 employees at UAHN's two hospitals, the health plan and the medical group.

The Arizona Cancer Center is excluded under the proposed agreement and will remain part of the University of Arizona. The proposal does not affect Banner's existing agreement with the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center at Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert nor does it affect UAHN's agreement with St Joseph Medical Center in Phoenix.

This would be Banner's first acquisition on an academic medical center which reflects the growing relationship between academia and corporate America (3). Balancing the teaching and research goals of academia and the profit goals of corporations whether profit or not-for profit can be difficult. Some physicians have been troubled by Banner's non-compete clauses on physician contracts as well as Banner's aggressiveness in employing physicians that directly compete with private practice physicians at their hospitals. It is unclear how this agreement might conflict with the academic goals of UAHN as well as affecting the relationship with physicians currently practicing at Banner.

Richard A. Robbins, MD



  1. Arizona Board of Regents agenda. Available at: (accessed 6/27/14).
  2. Ames J, Grijalva B. UA Health Network, UA move forward in negotiations with Banner. Tucson News Now. June 26, 2014. Available at: (accessed 6/27/14).
  3. Reece EA, Chrencik RA, Miller ED. Fully aligned academic health centers: a model for 21st-century job creation and sustainable economic growth. Acad Med. 2012;87(7):982-7. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 

Reference as: Robbins RA. Banner health, University of Arizona health network to merge. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(6):358-9. doi: PDF