“June 20, 2005 Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

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Meet Engel von der Killer Tal Schanze! She’s the newest member of THE DARK REPORT Team and came to us all the way from Germany. Engel (which means Angel in English) is just 12 weeks old and is latest in a long line of Deutsche Schaeferhunds (German Shepards) raised for serious Schutzhund duties. In fact, her sire was a Shutzhund and worked for the U.S. Department of Defense in Germany. Accordingly, she already displays high intelligence and a motivation for disciplined work.

ADD TO: Engel

Following the tenth annual Executive War College on May 5-6, Robert Michel and Debbie Lucas traveled to Germany for a family reunion and vacation. Engel was a surprise for Debbie. A young and eager Engel is now on daily security duty in the offices of THE DARK REPORT. Clients and members can feel welcome, especially with Engel on the alert and watching out for the bad guys!

HMO RATE INCREASES EASE FOR 2006, STILL IN DOUBLE DIGITS

HMO premium rate increases for 2006 show early signs of easing, according to Hewitt Associates, a global HR consulting firm. HMO rates will still rise in 2006—but at 12.7% it’s the lowest level in more than five years and is down 1.3% from the 13.7% increase of one year ago. Hewitt also noted that employers who managed their health costs aggressively saw an average HMO rate increase of 9.0% in 2005. This was attributed to plan design adjustments and aggressive negotiations. In particular, the number of companies requiring $20 office co-payments increased from 16% in 2004 to 25% this year while the number of employers offering $10 office co-payments is down from 29% in 2005 to 22% this year.

MORE ON: HMO Rates

“The positive impact of employee cost-sharing on utilization rates, stabilization in the frequency of hospital vis- its, and the increased focus of companies on health management programs are playing a major role in ongoing cost moderation,” stated Paul Harris, Senior Health Care Strategist at Hewitt Associates. “While this is good news, it’s important to remember that growth in health care costs continues to well outpace inflation.”

HUMAN STEM CELLS CREATE BLOOD CELLS

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia recently announced a technical milestone. They developed a method to turn human embryonic stem cells into red and white blood cells. The team’s system was able to stimulate the stem cells specifically into becoming red or white cells. Although clinical applications are believed to be years away, lab managers and pathologists should consider this a relevant milestone in the effort to create a safe and effective “universal donor” blood.

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