Entries in Thayer, Claire (135)

Thursday
Sep152016

Workplace family monthly health premiums rise to $1,512; deductibles up 12% in 2016

By Claire Thayer, September 15, 2016

In 2016, employer-sponsored health insurance covered half of the non-elderly population.  For the 18th year in a row,  the Kaiser Family Foundation & Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) published findings from its annual survey of employers reflecting trends of employer sponsored health benefits on premiums, employee cost-sharing, wellness programs and employer opinions in the 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey.  Here are a few highlights:

  • The average premium for single coverage in 2016 is $536 per month, or $6,435 per year.
  • The average premium for family coverage is $1,512 per month or $18,142 per year
  • The $18,142 average family premium in 2016 is 20% higher than the average family premium in 2011 and 58% higher than the average family premium in 2006
  • Among those with a general annual deductible for family coverage, the percentages of covered workers with an average aggregate general annual deductible are 61% for workers in HMOs, 64% for workers in PPOs, and 77% for workers in POS plans
  • The share of covered workers in plans with a general annual deductible has increased significantly over time: from 55% in 2006, to 74% in 2011, to 83% in 2016, as have the average deductible amounts for covered workers in plans with deductibles: from $584 in 2006, to $991 in 2011, to $1,478 in 2016
  • Eighty-three percent of firms offering health benefits in 2016 offer only one type of health plan. Large firms are more likely to offer more than one plan type than small firms (53% vs. 16%)
  • Enrollment remains highest in PPO plans, covering just under half of covered workers, followed by HDHP/SOs, HMO plans, POS plans, and conventional plans.
  • Forty-eight percent of covered workers are enrolled in PPOs, followed by HDHP/SOs (29%), HMOs (15%), POS plans (9%), and conventional plans (< 1%)
  • Nearly all (more than 99%) covered workers work at a firm that provides prescription drug coverage in their largest health plan.
  • Sixty-one percent of covered workers are in a self-funded health plan.
  • Twenty-four percent of large firms (200 or more workers) that offer health benefits to their employees offer retiree coverage in 2016, similar to recent years.
  • Among large firms that have a health risk assessment, 54% offer an incentive to employees to complete the assessment

Says KFF President and CEO Drew Altman, “We’re seeing premiums rising at historically slow rates, which helps workers and employers alike, but it’s made possible in part by the more rapid rise in the deductibles workers must pay.”

 

More info:

  • Summary of findings is here
  • Entire report with over 200 exhibits in 14 different sections is here
  • News release is here
  • Health Affairs article is here

 

Tuesday
Aug302016

High Drug Prices, Complexity of Drug Development and What the Market Will Bear

By Claire Thayer, August 30, 2016

The escalating cost of prescription drugs is of concern for all of us and impact stakeholders all across the health continuum: patients, payers, providers, as well as policy makers.   A recent Consumer Reports study, Is There a Cure for High Drug Prices?, offers these 5 reasons drug costs are ballooning:

  • Reason #1: Drug Companies Can Charge Whatever Price They Want
  • Reason #2: Insurance Companies Are Also Charging You More
  • Reason #3: Old Drugs Are Reformulated as Costly ‘New’ Drugs
  • Reason #4: Generic Drug Shortages Can Trigger Massive Price Increases
  • Reason #5: Specialty Drugs Are Costing All of Us

This week, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released an in-depth article, The High Cost of Prescription Drugs in the United States, which explores literature from January 2005 to July 2016 for sources of drug prices in the U.S., justification and consequences of high prices and possible solutions.  The authors conclude that “high drug prices are the result of the increasing cost and complexity of drug development but also arise in large part from the approach the United States has taken to the granting of government-protected monopolies to drug manufacturers, combined with restriction of price negotiation at a level not observed in other industrialized nations.”

Among overall study findings:

  • In 2013, per capita spending on prescription drugs was $858 compared with an average of $400 for 19 other industrialized nations.
  • In the United States, prescription medications now comprise an estimated 17% of overall personal health care services.
  • The most important factor that allows manufacturers to set high drug prices is market exclusivity, protected by monopoly rights awarded upon Food and Drug Administration approval and by patents.
  • The availability of generic drugs after this exclusivity period is the main means of reducing prices in the United States, but access to them may be delayed by numerous business and legal strategies.
  • The primary counterweight against excessive pricing during market exclusivity is the negotiating power of the payer, which is currently constrained by several factors, including the requirement that most government drug payment plans cover nearly all products.
  • Another key contributor to drug spending is physician prescribing choices when comparable alternatives are available at different costs.
  • Although prices are often justified by the high cost of drug development, there is no evidence of an association between research and development costs and prices; rather, prescription drugs are priced in the United States primarily on the basis of what the market will bear.
Friday
Aug122016

Health Benefit Costs for Large Employers – Up 6% again in 2017

By Claire Thayer, August 12, 2016

This week, the National Business Group on Health released their Large Employers’ 2017 Health Plan Design Survey, with the ‘good’ news that the overall health benefit costs were only expected to increase 6%.  Says Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health, “interestingly, current estimates have health insurance premiums for the average public exchange plan increasing by at least 10%, about twice what large employers are projecting for next year. This is a clear indication that the employer-based health care model continues to be the most effective way to provide health insurance coverage to employees and their families.”

Spending on pharmaceuticals and specialty drugs are contributing factors in the overall growth of health care benefit costs.  The survey reports that overall, 80% of employers placed specialty pharmacy as one of the top three highest cost drivers, followed by high cost claimants (73%) and specific diseases and conditions (61%).

The survey offers highlights of what employees will see during their upcoming open enrollment:

  • Telehealth services on the rise: Nine in 10 employers (90%) will make telehealth services available to employees in states where it is allowed next year, a sharp increase from 70% this year.
  • Consumer-Directed Health Plans (CDHPs) increase slightly: Overall, 84% of employers will offer a CDHP in 2017, up from 83% this year. In addition, more than one-third of employers (35%) will only offer CDHPs to employees in 2017, a slight increase from 33% this year.
  • Spousal surcharges leveling off: One in three employers (33%) will have surcharges in place for spouses who can obtain coverage through their own employer, roughly the same as this year. A few employers will exclude spouses when other coverage is available through an employer.
  • Expanded options at Centers of Excellence grow. The use of Centers of Excellence will grow from 79% this year to 85% in 2017. The largest increases will be for bariatric surgery (up 15 percentage points), transplants and fertility treatments, both up 8 percentage points.
  • Tools to manage care: Eight in 10 respondents (80%) plan to offer nurse coaching for care and condition management while 72% will offer nurse coaching for lifestyle management. Nearly two-thirds (65%) will provide employees with self-service decision-making tools to help them become better health care consumers.
Monday
Jul252016

Connecting individuals to complex health care fraud schemes

By Claire Thayer, July 25, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice has been busy in tracking down and convicting criminals in health care fraud related crimes.  This week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its largest criminal healthcare fraud case against individuals in $1billion Medicare fraud scheme. This follows U.S. Department of Justice news on June 22, 2016, of an unprecedented nationwide sweep led by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force in 36 federal districts, resulting in criminal and civil charges against 301 individuals, including 61 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in health care fraud schemes involving approximately $900 million in false billings.  In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is suspending payment to a number of providers using its suspension authority provided in the Affordable Care Act.  This coordinated takedown is the largest in history, both in terms of the number of defendants charged and loss amount. 

An OIG report published earlier this year found that in FY 2015, FBI efforts resulted in over 625 operational disruptions of criminal fraud organizations and the dismantlement of the criminal hierarchy of more than 144 health care fraud enterprises.  These and other findings are the focus of a recent MCOL infographoid, co-sponsored by LexisNexis Health Care, highlighted below:

MCOL’s weekly infoGraphoid is a benefit for MCOL Basic members and released each Wednesday as part of the MCOL Daily Factoid e-newsletter distribution service – find out more here.

Tuesday
Jul192016

Cost of a data breach in health care reaches $355

By Claire Thayer, July 19, 2016

The Ponemon Institute released a few new reports this summer on the cost of data breaches as well as ability of companies to adequately mitigate online incidents and cyber attacks. While the reports cross all major industries, noted below are a couple of important highlights pertaining to healthcare.

In terms of analyzing external threats that arise outside the company’s traditional security perimeter, and use of online channels – email, social media, mobile apps, or domains, as primary attack vehicles, a July 2016 Ponemon Institute report finds that only 29 percent of respondents in health and pharma believe they indeed have the necessary tools and resources to mitigate external threats:

In addition to concerns on how best to mitigate external threats, the Ponemon Institute’s  2016 Cost of a Data Breach Study finds that the average global cost of a data breach per lost or stolen record reached $355 for healthcare, compared to $158 for all industries. 

The complete Ponemon Institute 2016 Global Cost of a Data Breach Study includes:

  • The average costs and consequences related to experiencing a data breach incident.
  • Seven global mega trends in the cost of data breach research.
  • The most common factors that influence and can limit the cost of a breach.