“December 5, 2005 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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On November 9, Luminex Corporation was awarded the “2005 Clinical Diagnostics Technology of the Year” Award from Frost & Sullivan. The award recognizes “clinical diagnostics technology that shows the potential to become an industry standard, achieve a high degree of market acceptance, and maintain a competitive posture in several market segments.” Luminex’s xMAP® technology was honored, in particular, for its applications in immunoassay and molecular testing. These are two of six segments in clinical diagnostics that are evaluated for this award.

MORE ON: Luminex

xMap technology supports multiplex testing. This allows multiple analytes to be evaluated in a single specimen. Luminex has licensed the technology to many of the leading IVD and pharmaceutical companies in the world. The ability of xMAP to perform both DNA- and protein-based assays makes it attractive for a number of diagnostic and research applications.

ANNUAL INCREASE IN HEALTH COSTS SLOWS FOR EMPLOYERS

Health benefit costs for employers increased by an average of only 6.1% in 2005, according to a survey recently conducted by Mercer Health & Benefits. Mercer notes that this is the lowest rate of increase in several years. For this year’s survey, Mercer interviewed 2,999 employers. It reports that employers paid an average of $7,089 per employee to provide health benefits in 2005. This is just a 6.1% increase from the average of $6,679 paid per employee in 2004. Mercer expects that 2006 will be another year of single-digit increases in employee health costs.

ADD TO: Health Costs

Mercer identified a primary reason for the moderate increase in the cost of employee health benefits. Simply put, employers are requiring employees to pay more. However, unlike past years, where the employee was asked to pay a larger portion of the health insurance premium, most companies have switched to requiring employees to pay higher deductibles, co-pays, and out-
of-pocket expenses. Among other things, this shifts more of the burden onto those employees who use health benefits the most. Mercer also reported that 22% of the companies surveyed offered some form of a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) during 2005. Expanded enrollment in CDHPs is a market dynamic that lab directors and pathologists will want to track in their strategic planning.

THE DARK REPORT IS NOW VISITING AUSTRALIA

As this issue goes to the printer, THE DARK REPORT is in Australia, visiting laboratories and participating in strategic planning sessions for one of that nation’s leading laboratory associations. It is proving to be a great learning experience. A large country when measured by geographical size, Australia’s population is just 20 million—about the same number of people who live in Southern California or Florida. Because its health system reimburses private providers, there is a dynamic and competitive market for clinical lab and anatomic pathology services. More insights to come in future issues.

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