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Blind Faith: Self-Funded Health Plan Management and Hospital Billings November 16, 2012

Posted by medvision in Chronic Disease, Employee Wellness, health data, Healthcare Costs, Healthcare Reform, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Rx Costs, Uncategorized.
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Blind Faith: Self-Funded Health Plan Management and Hospital Billings

 Health CostsMany things concerning our current healthcare situation leave me in amazement. For example, today an article featured in “The Hill” highlighted a 4-5% decrease in healthcare inflation, which is a positive sounding reduction. http://tinyurl.com/czmmdz4  The national consultant attributed this to America’s adoption of high deductible health plan programs. This would seem logical if our national problems were based upon members utilizing too many $100 doctor visits. In other words, make patients 100% responsible for funding doctor visits, prescription medications and other high-value, low-cost health services. This sounds terrific until one discovers an excess of 75% of our national healthcare expenditures go to mitigate/control existing chronic disease. So is the logic “prevent the low-cost services to inflate high cost chronic disease services”?

 Unfortunately, the above can only make sense to plan managers who have no independent, actionable data. One simple exhibit, the expense distribution analysis, would show plan managers that a very small number of their members account for huge expenditures of claim dollars. Let’s assume a plan provides health benefits for 10,000 members (employees, spouses and children). If together the plan sustains $36 million in annual claims, a typical report would note a per-member-per-year, PMPY, expenses equaling $3600.  If the real expense distribution analysis was available, one would see:

-Top 1% (100 members) incur annual average claims of $90,000 each;

-Next 4% (400 members) incur $35,000 each;

-Next 25% (2500 members) incur $3000 each;

-Next 20% (2000 members) incur $1500 each; and

-Bottom 50% (5000 members) incur $500 each.

Notice the above does not include member paid coinsurance or monthly payroll deductions for coverage. Now, the plan manager is  advised to increase the deductible to $2000 per member before any plan benefits are payable. Why? Give members skin in the game! Immediately, it’s easy to see 50% are completely disenfranchised from any benefit payable. Does it make sense for the plan sponsor to eliminate benefits payable for the bottom 50% to 60%?  How much impact will the new $2,000 deductible have on the top 1% members spending an average of $90,000 per year?

Remember that very sick members are not consumers in the sense of purchasing an automobile. They are fighting for their lives. The bottom 50% of members are not consumers either, as the vast majority are not in life or death disease struggles.  Due to the 100% expense, these 50% are foregoing necessary wellness visits and other necessary disease management services. From a risk management standpoint, this plan design doesn’t compute.  I think this builds a speed lane into the top 5%/1%!

 The centerpiece of my consulting practice at Med-Vision is actionable, independent, HIPAA compliant, patient centric health plan data. Recently, while digging through a client’s outpatient hospital data, I noticed a $7 million paid run of charges recorded under revenue codes entitled — other pharmacy IV solutions and pharmacy incidental to radiology. These have no detail, no backup, and will require the administrator to request itemized billings to investigate. This could be totally legitimate, but I find it amazing clients are scouring the lunch tabs of their sales force and increasing the deductible for needed member preventative health services, while blindly paying $7 million for possible saline injections.  If this isn’t a home run example of the necessity of actionable data, nothing else is.

I often joke that many large self-funded health plans could be purchasing someone a brand-new Mercedes- Benz, S-500, each month with no notice.  It’s time for employers to take notice, evaluate their plans, implement solutions, and gain control of their healthcare costs.  What’s more, with the right plan design and data analytics, costs can be cut while simultaneously enhancing benefits and improving the quality of care.



Another HDHP rant! March 28, 2012

Posted by medvision in health data, Healthcare Costs, Healthcare Reform, Insurance Plans, Risk Management, Uncategorized.
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Today we are in the middle of the arguments concerning healthcare reform before the US Supreme Court. The individual mandate is the issue of the week; however, I’d like to discuss the lack of procedure pricing in health markets. Although lack of pricing information is not the main problem with High Deductible Health Plans, the issue is amazingly resilient. First, I’d like to describe personal experience with my own HDHP.

Somehow during December 2011 my family actually met the large deductible of our plan. Given this was the first month of any reimbursable expenses over the last several years, I elected to follow my primary physician’s advice and submit to a sleep study. My physician is owned by a local hospital and I was referred to their outpatient center. I tried to check the pricing on my MCO’s website only to find no information exists for sleep studies. So, around December 30th I traipsed over to the hospital ending up in the basement in a drab, lifeless room. Subsequently, I was met by male technician who proceeded to stick wires all over my head and chest to the point I looked like Frankenstein. Somehow, I fell asleep, was awoken after four hours and drove home.

About two weeks later, I noticed the EOB in the mailbox and quickly opened it. Shock, outpatient billing $4000, BUCA allowed $2000, BUCA paid $1600, member amount due at 20%, $400. Subsequently, I start receiving calls from hospital to schedule my next delightful evening, another four-hour visit, but this time entirely subject to my fantastic $3000 deductible. I answered, “Hmm, let me get back to you”.

By now, I’m feeling pretty stupid and decide to call another facility to inquire the discounted rate for the same procedure/CPT under my MCO. The facility answers, “we don’t know what you’re MCO pays”. Then I say, “forget the MCO, I’m paying cash”. “Oh, you should’ve mentioned that at first, yes the cash price is $300 per evening or $600 for the entire procedure”. Pretty big variance? Drafty hospital, $4000 or brand-new facility $600!

Here’s a supporting posting today on Kevin M.D. The subject has a little more clinical risk significance.  Again, I’m not in the HDHP corner!



5% of Americans spend 50% of annual health care dollars–how will the Cadillac tax work? January 13, 2012

Posted by medvision in Chronic Disease, health data, Healthcare Costs, Healthcare Reform, Insurance Plans, Rx Costs, Uncategorized.
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Health Costs, Rx CostsMy firm has had the opportunity to analyze years of medical claims from multiple self-funded employer health plan sponsors, covering thousands of members. Across employer groups, various industries and  state to state, one metric is virtually identical, the member expense claims distribution. This metric examines the annual plan dollars spent as a percentage of covered plan members. Here’s the common finding:  The top 1% of members account for 25%-30% of annual expenses and the next 4% account for an additional 25%. As recounted in USA Today, the top 5% of Americans spend 50% of all dollars! http://tinyurl.com/7wp9frh

What’s this got to do with the famous Cadillac Tax? The article shows a picture of HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius. Not mentioned is the Secretary’s firm stance on the wisdom of the Cadillac tax as a funding vehicle of PPACA. They define a Cadillac plan as containing very rich benefits, better than those enjoyed by average Americans. Starting in 2018 Americans covered under high-cost Cadillac plans will pay substantial taxes for these rich benefits!

Oh–but the article reports just 5% of Americans spend 50% of all dollars, $36,000 each and the top 1% averaging $90,000 of annual medical charges. I bet everyone knows the top 5% suffer from multiple chronic diseases/acute injuries and are suffering. They are not enjoying life compared to the bottom 75% not spending significant dollars. Here’s the issue!

PPACA (ObamaCare) plans on taxes from the Cadillac plans to fund care in the future. What makes plans high-cost? It isn’t what Washington considers a high-cost plans as having low deductibles or low/no co-pays. In reality these “rich gold-plated” plans spend less as their benefits encourage low-cost doctor visits and facilitate the prevention of high-cost disease through the identification of emerging disease at the earliest, low-cost stages. Don’t believe me? Then why are employers slashing health cost by adopting on/near site clinics which employ physicians seeing members for 0 deductibles, no copays and dispensing generic drugs at no member cost? They are preventing disease. The best deal in healthcare is someone living a healthy, disease free life.

The upcoming result of Cadillac plan taxing will confront/afflict groups of older Americans with the sickest populations of members with chronic diseases! Doesn’t seem fair? The 5%-50% fact highlighted by this USA Today report is the most important issue in our national healthcare debate. High cost equals much disease and suffering. If a discussion of healthcare fails to mention chronic disease, the discussion is moot! A famous bank robber was once asked by a reporter, ” Why do you rob banks”? His answer– Fool, because that’s where the money is”.  A meaningful discussion American healthcare inflation, must include chronic disease because that’s where the money is!

I’d call it a new version of voodoo economics, but I’m afraid that would give witch doctors a bad name.
 Geraldine A. Ferraro

Cracks in high-deductible/consumer-driven health plan models November 29, 2011

Posted by medvision in health data, Healthcare Costs, Insurance Plans, Uncategorized.
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I’ve always been confused by the values highlighted by proponents of HDHPs. My logic has consistently been: (1) 75% of healthcare payments are made as the result of treating chronic diseases and, if/when, caught at the earliest stages can be cured, or mitigated. (2) Shifting initial plan expenses to patients, in the form of high deductibles, tends to prevent doctor visits/medical treatment thus negatively impacting the early discovery and treatment of disease. (I understand wellness checks are paid at 100%)

Here’s some real evidence our physicians will be the keys to unlocking our national health care cost/quality problems: http://tinyurl.com/7acns8o

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