Health plans have apparently accepted, with new zeal, what many of them have stated for years: Healthier patients will cost less in the long run, even if preventive care costs more up front. The Wall Street Journal reports on some of the programs that health plans have launched in an effort to "coax, cajole and nag patients into seeing doctors, filling prescriptions, and generally taking better care of themselves."

  • Aetna is phoning enrollees who have been hospitalized with certain conditions, such as pneumonia, after they are discharged to make sure that they are taking their medications.
  • Anthem offers help to women who are at high risk of experiencing premature labor.
  • Highmark calls members if they get an MRI of the spine and consult an orthopedic surgeon.
  • Kaiser Permanente expects its doctors to record patients' body mass indexes at annual physicals. Also, health plan representatives will call those patients who may be in need of diet and exercise counseling, as well as those who could use a prescription for a pedometer.
  • Oxford Health Plans encourages people with diabetes and congestive heart failure who have not visited a specialist in over a year to make that appointment.
  • PacifiCare Health Systems plans to launch a program under which any plan member will get a reduction in his premium if he earns "health credits" by joining a weight-loss program, enrolling in an online health club, and filling out a health risk assessment survey.
  • WellPoint Health Network calls patients who have chronic conditions but who do not fill their prescriptions.

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.