MANAGED CARE February 1998. ©1998 Stezzi Communications

It's been a year since the American Association of Health Plans said it would make compliance with its patient-centered policies a condition of membership. And never mind what you may read about those cold, heartless HMOs: Since that announcement, says Susan Pisano, vice president for communications, plans have embraced those policies full-bore.

"The overwhelming response from members is that this is the right thing to do," says Pisano. Those policies, including one discouraging outpatient mastectomies and another encouraging plans to communicate rules for ER coverage and appeals, are part of AAHP's Putting Patients First initiative.

The compliance requirement for membership took effect Jan. 1. Although it has only been a month, so far, so good --no plan has been denied membership renewal. How does AAHP know the membership is in line? Because plans say so on renewal applications.

Isn't that like trusting the fox with the henhouse? "We are going to look at whether we need to secure those findings another way," Pisano concedes.

"Maybe one area we'd like to learn more about is change. I don't think most plans have made information public about how physicians are paid. I would expect that when we ask plans about it, we would find that some of them need to make operational changes to be in compliance. Hopefully, we'll get a look at how we've been able to effect change."

Managed Care’s Top Ten Articles of 2016

There’s a lot more going on in health care than mergers (Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna) creating huge players. Hundreds of insurers operate in 50 different states. Self-insured employers, ACA public exchanges, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid managed care plans crowd an increasingly complex market.

Major health care players are determined to make health information exchanges (HIEs) work. The push toward value-based payment alone almost guarantees that HIEs will be tweaked, poked, prodded, and overhauled until they deliver on their promise. The goal: straight talk from and among tech systems.

They bring a different mindset. They’re willing to work in teams and focus on the sort of evidence-based medicine that can guide health care’s transformation into a system based on value. One question: How well will this new generation of data-driven MDs deal with patients?

The surge of new MS treatments have been for the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. There’s hope for sufferers of a different form of MS. By homing in on CD20-positive B cells, ocrelizumab is able to knock them out and other aberrant B cells circulating in the bloodstream.

A flood of tests have insurers ramping up prior authorization and utilization review. Information overload is a problem. As doctors struggle to keep up, health plans need to get ahead of the development of the technology in order to successfully manage genetic testing appropriately.

Having the data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Applying its computational power to the data, a company called RowdMap puts providers into high-, medium-, and low-value buckets compared with peers in their markets, using specific benchmarks to show why outliers differ from the norm.
Competition among manufacturers, industry consolidation, and capitalization on me-too drugs are cranking up generic and branded drug prices. This increase has compelled PBMs, health plan sponsors, and retail pharmacies to find novel ways to turn a profit, often at the expense of the consumer.
The development of recombinant DNA and other technologies has added a new dimension to care. These medications have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and many of the other 80 or so autoimmune diseases. But they can be budget busters and have a tricky side effect profile.

Shelley Slade
Vogel, Slade & Goldstein

Hub programs have emerged as a profitable new line of business in the sales and distribution side of the pharmaceutical industry that has got more than its fair share of wheeling and dealing. But they spell trouble if they spark collusion, threaten patients, or waste federal dollars.

More companies are self-insuring—and it’s not just large employers that are striking out on their own. The percentage of employers who fully self-insure increased by 44% in 1999 to 63% in 2015. Self-insurance may give employers more control over benefit packages, and stop-loss protects them against uncapped liability.