Paul E. Terry, PhD

January 1, 2014 marks the most monumental day in the history of American health policy. The individual insurance mandate, the sunsetting of underwriting as we know it, and the planned obsolescence of the term “pre-existing conditions” in insurance all presage a fundamentally different era for access to health care. Of the 5.7% of those in the individual market, .6% will not be eligible for financial help if they want to continue buying in the individual market. In exchange, starting today, up to 47 million nonelderly uninsured will be eligible for new and/or more affordable health insurance. The good news is that there is no turning back from this miracle arrival. The bad news is there is no starting over either. The stork delivered it with warts and all.

Jessica Cherian, PharmD, RPh
Jessica Cherian, PharmD, RPh

Nowadays, every turn of a newspaper page, click of a media page on the Internet, or flip to a news channel brings us to an update, or more likely a criticism, of the public exchanges. With all of the attention on this side of the exchanges, we might be forgetting about the private exchange.   The private exchange serves as a channel for individuals and employers to purchase health insurance that is separate from the newly opened public exchanges developed under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

 The biggest difference between the two stems from the fact that government subsidies aren’t available to those choosing to purchase health insurance from the private exchange. This explains why much of the news regarding private exchanges focuses on the group market, as employers that choose to participate in a private exchange provide employees with an subsidy to be used toward the purchase of health insurance, a method also known as defined contribution.

Paul E. Terry, PhD

The recent Health and Productivity Conference sponsored by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) signaled the arrival of what social scientists have long held as vital to the success of wellness: a balance between personal and organizational engagement in health.

Jessica Cherian, PharmD, RPh

The Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) was an additional ACO model offered by Medicare, designed for groups that were already experienced in coordinating patient care across the care continuum. The shared-savings payment policy in this case is aligned with higher levels of both sharing and risk than that of the basic Shared Savings Program. Many had high hopes for the Pioneer groups and anticipated positive results when it came time for reporting in 2013.

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP

In doing research for a Grand Rounds needs assessment on humanism in medicine, I re-acquainted myself with a classic lecture by Dr. Francis Peabody, "The Care of the Patient" published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Peabody, FW: The Care of the Patient. JAMA 1927; 88:877–882.)

The words that Peabody spoke to his students in 1927, as Peabody himself faced his own mortality, having been diagnosed with cancer at age 45, are resonant and worthy of daily reminder for any of us involved in caring for patients, designing care models, influencing benefit plans, organizing systems of care, integrating technology into patient care, or serving in adminstrative leadership.

“Medicine is not a trade to be learned, but a profession to be entered,” he told his students. “The treatment of a disease may be entirely impersonal; the care of a patient must be completely personal.... the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”

Steven R. Peskin, MD, MBA, FACP, is associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and is governor of the American College of Physicians, New Jersey South.

Princeton’s Uwe Reinhardt, PhD, renowned health care economist, sits down with Managing Editor Frank Diamond to discuss the economic effects of the Affordable Care Act, wellness programs, and the state of health care in the United States in general.

Craig Keyes
Craig Keyes

I saw my doctor last month for an annual physical. I cannot imagine a better primary care physician; he’s so thorough, so kind. After an exhaustive review, he said all seemed pretty much “ship shape,” but he had to add one dig: “Hey, I was glad to hear you finally went for your screening colonoscopy. Thing is … I can’t find any evidence that it actually happened. No claim, no entry into the electronic medical record, nothing. Did you end up having the procedure?”

Busted!! It’s true that I went to have the procedure, and I shared this with my doctor. What I didn’t tell him was that I left before it was performed.

The U.S. offers the highest advances in medicine and technology, yet only 55% of patients receive nationally recommended guidelines of care for their health needs. There are many contributing factors, but gaps in care that go unattended top the list.

Krishna R. Patel, PharmD, RPh

Apps will begin to be prescribed by physicians by the end of this year. Call it disruption, innovation, or crossroad, but it will be here and the question is are we ready for it?

WellDoc has been selling type 2 diabetes apps, and will now be the first to launch a prescription app. Go ahead and search for “mobile diabetes management” on clinicaltrials.gov and what you find may surprise you. Just like drugs that must be approved by the FDA after presenting landmark clinical trials, BlueStar is a prescription app for Type 2 diabetes that was approved by the FDA upon showing efficacy and safety data.

Ford Motor Co. and Rite Aid are already catching on, as they have agreed to reimburse employees for using BlueStar through their prescription benefit plans. BlueStar manages patients’ disease by not only monitoring but also providing feedback to them and to their doctors.

Just as with any other drug, the health care provider prescribes the app for one month, along with refills. The prescription is received by the pharmacy, which runs it through the insurance company and also forwards the claim to WellDoc. A WellDoc trainer approaches the patient to set up the app on the patient’s mobile phone or laptop and also to provide instructions.

Jessica Cherian, PharmD, RPh

Will the FDA go back on a decision it made years ago? I am referring to a story that has a lot of buzz: whether or not the FDA will take recommendations from its advisory committee and change the restrictions on Avandia (rosiglitazone). Avandia was approved in 1999 and shortly became the top-selling type 2 diabetes medication in the world. In 2010, data from a number of trials convinced the FDA to severely restrict the medication through implementation of a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), while Europe banned it entirely.

Paul E. Terry, PhD

Though the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Labor issued final regulations concerning “Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans,”1 employers and health plans must still navigate unresolved inconsistencies between the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The latest ACA rules indicate that if a plan uses a “health-contingent” incentive scheme, that is employees are to meet certain standards related to a health factor (e.g., losing weight or controlling blood pressure) in order to receive a reward in the form of reduced premiums or deductibles, the plan must satisfy several requirements including offering a “reasonable alternative standard” for those who believe that the standard is not accommodating their unique circumstances.  

The EEOC has remained silent on whether they deem wellness programs to be voluntary, a key concern of an agency committed to ensuring that all employees enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment such as is guaranteed under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Pages