What We're Reading: Harsh Flu Season; Potential Hospital Giants Merger; ACA Sign-Up Deadline

Health officials are warning of an unusually harsh flu season; Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health are in talks about a possible merger; and heavy traffic is expected as the final week of ACA sign-ups begins.

Health Officials Warn of Harsh Flu Season

Possible Merger Between Hospital Giants

Deadline Week for ACA Sign Ups

This year’s flu season may be particularly harsh, health officials are warning. According to NPR, the concern comes from several factors, including signs that the season started a few weeks earlier than usual. The early start could signify a longer season, leading to more people with the flu. Health officials are also taking Australia’s flu season as an indicator, as the country suffered from a severe season this year.Hospital systems Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health are allegedly in talks about a possible merger, reported The Wall Street Journal. The merger between the 2 nonprofits would create the largest hospital system in the US, with 191 hospitals in 27 states, numerous clinics, and approximately $45 billion in annual revenue; the merger would also dethrone the country’s current largest hospital operator, the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).Heavy traffic is expected as the final week for Affordable Care Act (ACA) sign-ups has begun. December 15 is the last day for people to enroll in subsidized coverage in the 39 sates serviced by the federal HealthCare.gov website. There is an exception for people living in hurricane-affected areas; they will receive an extension until December 31 if they contact the HealthCare.gov call center. ABC News reported that the expected heavy traffic could slow down the website and create long hold times at the federal call center.