A Minnesota medical group that contracted with HealthPartners, a not-for-profit HMO, was able to improve cost of care, physician compensation, and patient access without harming patient satisfaction when the group converted from a salary payment system for physicians to one solely dependent on physician productivity. Before 1998, physicians were paid a salary, with all their patients coming from the health plan in a full capitation system. As the plan accepted more self-insured employers and other health insurance, it had to change its business practice. So, too, did the medical practice. The findings were published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

In 1998, 105 primary care physicians generated 275,000 work relative value units with an average pay of $123,500. By 2002, the same physicians generated 374,000 work RVUs and averaged $148,000 in pay. The group also improved its appointment scheduling, reducing the size of nurse staffing. This cut the cost of providing services, says Steven Lewandowski, lead researcher. "With the increase in efficiency, there was more standardization. This led to consistent and better quality of care. When physicians were engaged in innovation, they changed from being just employees to being innovative, revenue-producing professionals."

RVUs and patient satisfaction, 1998–2002

Compensation per work RVU and per FTE for 105 primary care physicians, 1998–2002

Source: HealthPartners Research Foundation, Minneapolis, Minn.

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.