Entries in health plans (49)

Monday
Apr242017

6 Ways to Improve Your Member Communications

Untitled 1
 

 By Claire Thayer, April 24, 2017

Change Healthcare doubled member engagement for a regional health plan after introducing engagement best practices with a marketing mix that included email, blog posts, social media, a direct mail campaign, presentations to key group leaders and on-site workshops.

This special edition of the MCOL Infographic, co-sponsored by Change Healthcare, identifies 6 effective ways for health plans to improve communications with members:

 (Click to Enlarge Image)

(Click to Enlarge Image)

 

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.

 

 
Friday
Apr072017

Health Plans and the Opiod Abuse Crisis

Untitled 1
 

By Clive Riddle, April 7, 2017

 

The Associated Press reports that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, “the doctor nominated to head the powerful Food and Drug Administration told senators Wednesday that his first priority would be tackling the opioid crisis.” 

 

What are health plans doing about Opiod Abuse? Last June, the California Health Care Foundation released  a report taking the issue on: Changing Course: The Role of Health Plans in Curbing the Opioid Epidemic, along with companion California health plan case studies and an infographic. Nationally, last fall AHIP weighed in, discussing how health plans are Fighting Opioid Abuse With Solutions That Work.

 

So what are some current developments on the health plan Opioid Abuse front?

 

Cigna has just announced that Use of Prescribed Opioids Down Nearly 12 Percent Over 12 Months Among Cigna Customers. Cigna reports that “58 medical groups participating in Cigna Collaborative Care, representing nearly 62,000 doctors, have signed Cigna's pledge to reduce opioid prescribing and to treat opioid use disorder as a chronic condition.”

 

Cigna states that their program works with participating doctors to: (1) Analyze integrated claims data across pharmacy and medical benefits to detect opioid use patterns that suggest possible misuse by individuals, and then notifying their health care providers; (2) Alert doctors when their opioid prescribing patterns are not consistent with CDC guidelines; and (3) Establish a database of opioid quality improvement initiatives for doctors.

 

Cigna also reports that “effective July 1, most new prescriptions for a long-acting opioid that are not being used as part of treatment for cancer or sickle cell disease, or for hospice care, will be subject to prior authorization, and most new prescriptions for a short-acting opioid will be subject to quantity limits.”

 

Last week the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans announced their member plans have jointly committed to combating opioid abuse and addiction in Wisconsin and effective April 1, Wisconsin's community-based health plans are collaborating on new initiatives.  The Association members agreed to: (1) support the Association’s Statement of Principles for addressing opioid abuse  that “form the basis for sharing information, best practices and evidence-based strategies”; (2) Track morphine equivalent dose and first-time user trends for their individual and employer group members,, generating comparative data to enrich provider education and management of prescription drug formularies and coverage policies; (3) Work with provider partners to support strategies to reduce and control the level of opioid prescribing; (4) Share methodologies, best practices and evidence-based strategies to improve the quality of pain management and opioid prescribing; and (5) Ensure that every member suffering from opioid abuse has access to medically-appropriate treatment options.

 

Two weeks ago BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York released episode four of their Point of Health Audiocast, “Addressing the Opioid Epidemic from a Health Plan Perspective,” aimed at increasing awareness of the issue and engaging stakeholders.

 

FamilyCare Health, a health plan serving Oregon Medicaid and Medicare members, “kicks off its 4-part Opioid Training series for providers on Thursday, April 27, 2017 with ‘Buprenorphine: What we know and what we don’t. Prescribing safely for pain management and opioid dependence.’ “

 

And last week, Prime Therapeutics, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association PBM, released two studies, highlighting strategies for addressing opioid epidemic.  The first study “analyzed concurrent use of opioids with benzodiazepines”, citing “previous research has shown concurrent use of these two types of drugs can increase the risk of overdose and death,” and “found more than one in six opioid users without cancer – or nine per 1,000 commercially insured members – used these two drugs concurrently for 30 days or more in 2015.” Their second study “found pharmacists based in a PBM or health plan, who do outreach to prescribers, can reduce emergency room visits and controlled substance drug costs among persistent users of controlled substances.” Following the outreach conducted with the study intervention group, “controlled substances drug costs per member for the intervention group dropped from $5,802 to $5,148, while controlled substance drug costs increased for the control group from $3,511 to $3,627 per member. Emergency department visits were 6.4 percent lower in the intervention group, compared with the control group.”

 
Friday
Mar032017

2017 Employer Health Care Strategies and Trends

Untitled 1

By Clive Riddle, March 3, 2017

 

DirectPath and CEB have just released their 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report, “which analyzed more than 975 employee benefit health plans, highlights the top ten trends in employers’ 2017 health care strategies across three categories – plan design, cost savings mechanisms and care options.”

 

The 11-page report tells us that “employers are incorporating solutions like health savings accounts (HSAs), wellness incentives, price transparency tools and alternative care options to reduce costs.”

 

The ten trends they discuss include:

1.     Annual Deductibles Leveling Out

2.     Marginal Change in Prevalence of HDHPs

3.     HSAs Continue to Remain Popular

4.     Specialty Medication to Become More Expensive

5.     Contribution Surcharge Amounts Vary

6.     Wellness Incentives Continue to Increase in Prevalence and Amounts

7.     Plan Comparison Tools Lead to More Savings

8.     Alternative Care Options Remain Affordable

9.     Barriers to Employee Use of Telemedicine

10.  Focus on Higher Quality Health Care

 

Major findings from their surveys cited in the report include:

·         51 percent of employers offer a price transparency tool to help employees choose the service or product best for them, and 18 percent plan to add such tools in the next three years

·         In a review of price comparison requests, these services resulted in an average employee savings of $173 per procedure and average employer savings of $409 per procedure.

·         While the percentage of organizations with spousal employee contribution surcharges remained static (26 percent in 2017, as compared to 27 percent in 2016), average total surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40 percent increase from 2016.

·         More than a third of organizations offer telemedicine, but over 55 percent of employees in these companies are not aware of telemedicine availability, and nearly 60 percent of employees who have telemedicine programs do not feel they are easy to access, according to a separate survey recently conducted by CEB.

·         The average cost of specialty drugs that treat rare and complex conditions increased by more than 30 percent for employers surveyed.

·         67 percent of employers surveyed offer HSAs, compared to 15% offering Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs). Employer contributions to HSAs increased almost 10 percent.

·         58 percent of 2017 employer plans offer some type of wellness incentives, up from 50 percent in 2016.

 

While we’re on the subject of wellness incentives, Humana just released their 2017 Humana Wellness Trends Report, a 20-page document that discusses five trends:

1.     The “connected experience 2.0” revolutionizing wellness strategies: “…As wellness programs begin to integrate these devices and employers gain access to the data, employers will gain insight into what’s driving organizational health costs and how to resolve them.”

2.     Older workforce leads to health, caregiving burdens: “…The U.S. workforce is getting older and retiring later due to the stress of financial burdens, caring for older loved ones and increasing health care costs.”

3.     Financial stress affects productivity: “….Americans identify money as their top stressor, which can reduce employee productivity and contribute to absenteeism, presenteeism and poor health. Research states 37 percent of full-time employees deal with financial issues while working.

4.     Poor sleep leading to errors, low morale: “…Among workers age 30 and older, 74 percent say lack of sleep affects their work performance.”

5.     Workers benefit from mindfulness techniques: “…Research has found a mindful approach may help ease the “effects of stress, anxiety and other negative emotions.”

Friday
Feb102017

Thinking of Starting a Medicare Advantage Plan? 2019 Starts Now

By Peter Kinhan and Dan Juberg, February 10, 2017

Provider Sponsored Plans and Medicare Advantage are gaining traction as a critical strategy for profitable, value-based care. However, many underestimate the necessary lead time and effort required to move from consideration to activation. Planning for a 2019 launch needs to begin now starting with a detailed market and organizational feasibility study for standing up a health plan.

In recent years, due to increasing cost pressures and competition among providers, many organizations have expressed their ambitions to develop their own health plans, often referred to as provider-sponsored plans (PSPs). Medicare Advantage (MA) is often considered the entry point of choice due to government financial incentives and strong opportunities to drive improvements in both quality and total cost of care for an increasingly aging population.

However, because of competing priorities, many executives struggle to carve out the necessary time to truly evaluate the opportunity. The time is right to look at MA—in terms of the changing political landscape and the surprisingly lengthy lead times required to assess and apply. This means for those that consider an MA plan as part of their future strategy, that process should start today.

There is no doubt the changes in presidential leadership have created political uncertainty when it comes to the healthcare industry. There are more things unknown than known. That said, rising healthcare costs are still a major problem to be solved, but value-based care (VBC) has proven to be and will continue to be a critical part of the solution.

So what could change with this new administration and how could it affect your global Medicare strategy? Let’s take note of the significant changes to Medicare that have been gaining traction in the market to date

     
  • MA enrollment continues to grow rapidly. In 2016 there were 17.6 million MA members, which is an increase of more than 200 percent from the number enrolled in 2005.
  •  
  • MACRA and other CMS programs have deployed value based payment methods that are projected to impact up to 125,000 providers in the traditional Medicare market by 2018.

These two trends demonstrate an important shift to VBC, and if one takes Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way,” as an indication of what is to come from a Republican administration, then an assumption is the shift to value-based care will continue —if not accelerate. According to “A Better Way,” Medicare’s “overhaul” would include what Ryan terms “premium support;” a plan to increase competition among providers and allow beneficiaries the freedom to choose where to spend their healthcare dollars. Sometimes called a defined contribution or voucher system, the desired effect of this approach would be to push Medicare further away from its current largely fee-for-service setup by providing increased incentives for beneficiaries to be cost-conscious in their plan selection.

This would likely drive a considerable enrollment increase in the already-growing private MA market; a space that has long been a strong component of Republican plans. As Medicare grows and seeks to control costs, providers can expect a doubling down of population health and a need for health systems to capture a larger share of the premium dollar. MA has always been a critical aspect of organizations’ population health strategy, and with the political changes, that need and opportunity has presumably only strengthened.

Many organizations have been preparing for a migration up the Medicare food chain through the creation of their own health plan. According to Avalere, providers are leveraging their large integrated delivery networks to establish plans at an increasing pace, representing 58 percent of new MA plans entering the program in 2016. Many of these organizations have been developing the necessary competencies by establishing risk-bearing Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) or accepting delegated risk. Many are confronted with familiar dilemmas. What are the next steps as these ACO agreement periods wind to a close? If launching an MA plan is a couple years down the road, when is the right time to start the “two years from now” process?

The MA application process differs greatly from the Medicare ACO application process and it starts roughly six months earlier. This is a significant undertaking with great opportunity, and large risk. It requires an in-depth analysis and planning and the necessary time to align organizational strategy.

The Notice of Intent to Apply for a 2019 Medicare Advantage contract opens in mid-November 2017. However the real work should begin much earlier than that. A candid evaluation of whether your organization is ready to run its own health plan takes time and thoughtful consideration. And the question isn’t simply just “Can we?” Of equal importance is “Should we? Will the market support it? Will we need partners or help? What kind of optionality should we be considering and planning for?”

Organizations legitimately contemplating starting an MA plan are taking a deep dive to assess their organizational and network readiness, scope out their competitive landscape and determine not only the overall opportunity present in the market but the viability of their organization being able to capitalize on it. Conducting a PSP feasibility study is a crucial first step to setting the wheels in motion for a successful and targeted health plan application and development process.

     
  • Key deliverables of a PSP feasibility study should include:
  •  
  • Market Assessment;
  •  
  • Prospective Partner List;
  •  
  • Network Adequacy Analysis;
  •  
  • Go-To Market Product and Network Structure;
  •  
  • Target Market Landscape and Competitive Positioning Strategy;
  •  
  • Organizational Readiness; and
  •  
  • Financial Pro Forma.

Armed with an honest assessment of the critical factors to successfully stand up and operate a health plan, organizations not only better understand their readiness but are also able to act immediately to implement any necessary improvements. Providers should be aware of specific opportunities available, and precisely what it will take for them to actualize them.

As a result of a PSP feasibility study, the executive team will be better informed for the ultimate decision as to whether they should pursue an MA contract. Should a “go” decision result, progressive organizations should then work to develop an implementation plan in tandem with the application process. While the development of a health plan has never been considered easy, this only underscores just how much preparation many successful organizations undergo.

With so many competing initiatives and so much uncertainty in healthcare right now, it can be easy to overlook or delay the analysis of your MA opportunity. However, we contend that with the political changes and continued demographic evolution, it has never been more important to assess this opportunity—and that process needs to start soon if organizations want options for 2019.

Friday
Nov042016

The Somewhat Confident but Confused Open Enrollment Consumer

By Clive Riddle, November 4, 2016

This November, many consumers across the country are voting on more than a President, Congressmen and a hot mess of ballot propositions. They are also voting on their health insurance coverage for 2017. And many consumers may be more befuddled about choosing their health plan than their choices at the ballot box.

PolicyGenius has just released their Health Insurance Literacy Survey that “reveals 2017 open enrollment shoppers are overconfident in health insurance knowledge and under prepared to select a new plan.” Here’s an excpert from the infographic PolicyGenius provided on their findings:

Here’s additional PolicyGenius findings from the survey:

  • There was 22% gap between women’s self-rated confidence in their knowledge of insurance terms and their actual comprehension, compared with a 29% gap for men.
  • Millennials had a 29% gap between their confidence and comprehension.
  • 72% of those with non-employer-provided health insurance policies plan to shop on the open marketplace for coverage this year.
  • Most insured Americans are satisfied with their current plan, at 70% of total respondents
  • People who used their health insurance 2-3 times in the past year are 12% more likely to be satisfied with their plan than those who used it just once
  • Millennials are most likely to be satisfied with their health insurance plan, at 77%.
  • There is no variation in plan satisfaction between those who have individual insurance versus employer-provided insurance.
  • More than half of respondents aren’t very confident in their ability to choose the best health insurance plan for their needs.
  • Only one-third of women overall are “very confident” in their ability to choose the best health insurance plan for their needs.
  • The two groups that showed the highest confidence in their ability to choose the best plan were men at 58% and millennials at 43%.
  • The survey found higher confidence levels in men over women (12% difference) and younger vs older respondents (millennials were most confident at 43%, 10% more than ages 45-55) in their ability to choose the best plan.

Sticking with the confusion theme, Walgreens has just released results of a survey of 1,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries in advance of the Medicare open enrollment. Here’s what they found:

  • 34% aren’t taking time to review their prescription drug plan prior to renewing it
  • 19% don’t have a good understanding of their plan
  • 22% look at just one component, checking, for example, to see if their own medications are covered, yet not looking at any other important considerations
  • 21% falsely believes that all pharmacies charge the same copay
  • 33% don’t know they can switch pharmacies outside of the enrollment period, at any time of year.
  • 30% said copay costs are the most important factor, followed by pharmacy location (18%) and the opportunity for one-stop shopping (18 percent).