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How do wellness programs save lives? May 9, 2013

Posted by medvision in Cancer Care, Employee Wellness, health data, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Uncategorized.
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Employee wellness programs and screenings can provide early detection and better outcomes for patients.  Just watch this cancer survival story of a teacher working for our client Manatee County School District.

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Healthcare price transparency and the empty airplane seat July 6, 2012

Posted by medvision in Chronic Disease, Employee Wellness, health data, Healthcare Costs, Healthcare Reform, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Uncategorized.
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health, paying for healthcareAnyone paying attention to our current national healthcare situation has surely seen published examples of pricing defying all realms of logic. For example, MRIs priced at $3000 for individuals without insurance, $1500 for individuals with insurance and, wow, $300 for individuals paying cash. Here’s the result of a recent Consumer Reports Study! http://tinyurl.com/7pnj4wx

I know, things like this make you want to pull your hair out. It’s simply a function of no transparency, infused with high utilization rewards/fee-for-service, plus a lack of value measurement, coupled with oversupply, fragmentation of care and unaccountably from spending someone else’s money. Our healthcare system lacks basic laws of supply and demand, accountability and economic reality. On the good side no place on earth can provide better care needed for critically ill patients.

For plan managers, such marketplace disruption can create some phenomenal opportunities to provide member care while sequentially saving vast dollars sums. For example, let’s say you’ve swallowed the consultant’s Kool-Aid and have a HDHP plan design w $3000 deductible while allowing members to make deposits into an HSA. Yes, yes, we all know annual physicals are covered at 100%, assuming nothing is diagnosed. However, you’ve adopted a plan design which essentially prevents members from receiving the lowest cost, highest value healthcare delivered to prevent chronic disease or manage emerging disease. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the same plan design in place but look to the crazy pricing variances for ways to cover the underinsured risk, i.e. the first $3000 annually:

  • Primary care. If your members are within a distinct geographic area/areas, why not contact a few of the larger primary care practices and ask for a capitated, or cash deal to treat your members? Cash deal means completely outside of your plan. Members would have no co-pays for doc visits and blood tests. Common low-cost generic drugs could be paid by the member or reimbursed by the employer, in or outside of the plan. What kind dollars would be involved here? Maybe an initial $100 cash payment when a member goes to the physician followed by a $40 per member per month payment.
  • Ancillary care. From the press we know pricing differences are amazing. Cash prices for CAT Scans can be 10% of the insured price. Simply coach members with the option of calling providers and asking for the cash price without mentioning they have coverage under a high deductible plan. These vastly reduced cash prices will not go towards the satisfaction of the deductible however from an economic perspective this practice makes perfect economic sense.
  • Inpatient hospital care. This is what insurance is for, so have members utilize the discounts available under the high deductible plan.

Empty airplane seat? I use is simply as an explanation of why such extreme variances exist in the health care system. A jetliner taking off with empty seats is simply losing seat revenue. This is why such wild price variances exist in the airline industry. It’s better to collect $.50 from a dollar ticket then receiving zero from an empty seat. The exact same thing happens with healthcare procedures. As an example, hospital A purchases a $2 million dollar CAT Scan machine. The hospital’s fixed cost is exactly the same whether it’s being utilized or not. Their expense includes capital outlay, interest and personnel necessary to operate the equipment. If they normally received $2000 per procedure and equipment is not utilized 50% of the time, it makes perfect sense to collect $300 per procedure during the time the machine is not being utilized for the $2000 procedure. Pricing information is invisible to consumers and the fact they charge either $2000 or $300 isn’t a problem.

How to plan managers take advantage of these situations? The answer is simple. The same way we purchase cheap airline seats. We explore, question, investigate and ask. The attached link shows a physician perspective.  http://tinyurl.com/chx8quh

Cancer is about patients and the community May 5, 2012

Posted by medvision in Cancer Care, Healthcare Costs, Uncategorized.
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America is blessed with wonderful physicians. This oncologist’s article moved me by his description of cancer’s broad impact on care givers, family and loved ones. I took this cancer-care journey with my Mom. From a healthcare perspective, my experience highlighted the importance individual members/patients.

http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/04/stop-someones-oncologist.html

Economy taking a toll on healthcare spending April 19, 2012

Posted by medvision in Chronic Disease, health data, Healthcare Costs, Healthcare Reform, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Rx Costs, Uncategorized.
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Health Costs, Rx CostsIn my last 8 years working with employer-sponsored self-funded health plans, and their health claims data, one common element is always a signal as to their clinical and financial health. It’s amazingly simple! The higher the total ratio of primary care cost to total cost, the better the plan performs. (Lowest trend, lowest cost and highest member compliance rates to evidence based medicine/screenings) For example, if a plan only spends 8% of total dollars on primary care, then the plan’s condition is sick/poor. Why? Because the balance, 92% is being spend due to advanced disease–in hospitals, seeing multiple specialists, utilizing high-cost technology and receiving costly drugs.

Again, why? Primary care is low-cost/high value. Primary care is preventative care or health maintenance-care, instead of reactive disease care. This makes sense and is the major reason employer sponsored on/near site primary care clinics, save so much money on disease care! (These centers charge no member co-pays or co-insurance for primary care visits and generic drugs)

Here’s an article saying the public is skipping primary care visits due to the down economy! If you are responsible for an employer sponsored health plan, you need to make member primary care compliance a critical metric. A stay-awake-at-night concerned, metric.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/health-care-spending-takes-a-hit-2012-04-18

The light of free markets slipping into employer sponsored health care! March 6, 2012

Posted by medvision in Employee Wellness, health data, Healthcare Costs, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Uncategorized.
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Free market practices appear to breaking through the screens covering our American health care system. Healthcare is a unique marketplace in which our current lack of financial and quality transparency produces high cost and poor clinical outcomes. How many patients will flock to a hospital experiencing 300% increases in cardiac death for heart surgery?  Read this physician’s post: Why we are busier than we’ve ever been.

Self-Funded plan management–take a close look at disease management results February 27, 2012

Posted by medvision in Employee Wellness, health data, Healthcare Costs, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Uncategorized.
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Recently results of Medicare’s largest commercial disease management study were republished in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This study should refocus plan managers on the issue of disease management because 75% of all plan dollars are spent on chronic disease. Preventing the production of disease and the management of existing disease states is the entire ball game with respect to healthcare. Back to the Medicare pilot. In the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, CMS was required to test the commercial disease management industries services with respect to the Medicare fee-for-service program. The program engaged eight of the industry’s DM providers, 250,000 Medicare beneficiaries with serious cardiovascular disease and spent $400 million over the four-year program. The conclusion was reported: In this large study, commercial disease-management programs using nurse-based call centers achieved only modest improvements in quality-of-care measures, with no demonstrable reduction in the utilization of acute care or the costs of care.

How should this be viewed in today’s environment? I’ve always felt the practice of nurses calling healthcare members they do not know, usually from a different state while attempting to offer advice concerning very personal aspects of one’s health is very problematic. Why? (1) Everyone, especially working folks, have very limited time during home hours (2) Not many are comfortable discussing their health issues with strangers and (3) nurses calling many times have limited, or worse, incorrect data about the medical conditions associated with the member.

My impressions of commercial disease management reports being delivered to clients today seem to be verified by the Medicare study as having, essentially, no positive results. But, Medicare members are very different from commercial health plan members? Yes in some ways, however they are mainly at home available so members have time to speak with nurse managers, this pilot targeted serious states of disease, and still, no demonstrable reduction. In what ways should plan managers react when delivered industry standard reports?

  1.  Don’t allow a 50 page DM document impress. DM providers have a strategy of creating member silos in which they describe all silo members as participants in the plan. A member not complaining about monthly mailings is “not” a participant! How many of us pitch 3/4ths of the mail we receive in the trash can? Probably over 90%. The only participants are the ones in continuous monthly/weekly phone calls with nurse managers. Usually this class never exceeds 1-3% of total members.
  2. Health claims metrics reported by the DM vendor probably will contain positive results. These must be verified from independent data in order to be considered valid. Many times DM providers attempt to “prove the negative’ by claiming their efforts created an absence of claims. Even worse are “vapor” attempts to prove savings by producing some type of productivity gain metrics! Sorry but this business in not akin to a college philosophy class.
  3. Each year $100s of millions are simply wasted on telephonic DM. If you cannot see the results clearly, the result didn’t happen.
  4. If you are offering a sole HDHP don’t assume a short-term claims reductions are necessarily good news. In today’s economic climate many are forgoing important medical care. As water recedes prior to a tsunami, an absence of claims this year may be indicative of an avalanche of future chronic disease.

Now the good news. If it isn’t working, try another approach. I’ve seen clients spend $250K through $500,000 with no clear results. How about using the dollars to hire, through a vendor/or directly, on site full-time nurses to reach out to members, face to face? People trust others they meet, trust and recognize!

The greatest opportunity in healthcare is for employer purchasers of healthcare to start demanding the results they want/need from vendors. Vendors which perform win should be rewarded and the many failing need to be sent packing!

Unintended consquences, PPACA eliminating 100,000+ agents and brokers December 13, 2011

Posted by medvision in health data, Healthcare Costs, Healthcare Reform, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Uncategorized.
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The president’s healthcare bill is showing America “change” has unintended consequences. Here’s one which will ripple through the lives of Americans receiving health benefits through small to mid-sized employers! Losing their jobs are 100,000+ agents and brokers who served as a buffer between the needs of insured Americans and the insurance companies? http://tinyurl.com/7l2oup3

It seems Kathleen Sebelius, Duchess of HHS, found the 2.02% of agent commission unworthy to be included in expenses for MLR calculations. Back to the land of unintended consequences. What roles do these agents play in the health outcomes of every-day Americans? (Ok, I understand the intent of Obamacare’s creators is to completely eliminate employer sponsored health benefits. For the sake of discussion, let’s pretend the nation comes to its senses and only permits part of PPACA to survive?)

Here’s a few instances in which agents and brokers changed the lives of their clients (1) Cancer diagnosis A woman’s physician, and consulting physician, strongly suspect she has initial stages of  serious organ cancer. They recommend advanced imaging as a diagnostic tool. The insurance company declines opting only to pay/permit exploratory surgery to collect multiple biopsy samples. The insurance broker reminds the insurance company of legal and public perception issues with such a decision and, after additional consideration, the insurance company relents. The test indicates the woman cancer free!

(2) Simple mistakes sink ships– During an open enrollment meeting an employee mistakenly prints the wrong date on the group enrollment application. The insurance company denies coverage under the group. The agent threatens to move another large group to a competitor if the mistake is not treated an inadvertent mistake. Problem solved.

(3) Deny by contract provision An applicant for individual coverage correctly answers individual underwriting questions as not knowing about heart disease. The policy is issued and after 9 months the person suffers a heart attack. The insurance company cites a prior doctor visit as proof the individual knew, or should have known they were subject to a heart attack, and denies coverage. The agent hounds the company VP of underwriting until the decision is reversed.

I know some will say the above are exactly what the entirety of PPACA will prevent! Hold on there “Kiomsabe”. If you believe free market healthcare can be tough, how about nationalized healthcare. http://tinyurl.com/nyap8o Things aren’t so rosy with the national health system in Great Britain! What makes us think our government would do better? For example, “Cash for Clunkers”

I once had a boss with very initiative advice. “Be careful what you ask for. You may get it”. Why not make provisions for uninsured American’s without destroying our current system? More on this later!

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