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Contributing Voices
Robert Royce

Those seeking some clarity regarding the future of health care policy in the UK will be forgiven for being baffled by recent events. First up was an abortive attempt by the government to introduce a requirement for National Health Service commissioners (known as clinical commissioning groups –see my article on “Health Care Reform in England” in the August, 2012 issue of Managed Care to undertake formal market testing of services.

Contributing Voices
Frank Diamond

Clinician executives at health insurance plans can stop worrying about whether consumers are savvy enough to navigate the changing landscape of coverage and start worrying about how small businesses will fare under the Affordable Care Act. (Well, keep worrying about both because both will continue to be problems.)

Let’s just look at small businesses for now. Expect a learning curve, to say the least, according to a study by EHealth, the parent company of eHealthInsurance, a private health insurance exchange. (See:"Small Employer Health Insurance Survey" )

Contributing Voices
Steven Peskin, MD

Earlier today, I was speaking with a physician colleague about his commitment to continue to improve person-centered care in his primary care practice and to enhance patient experience. We talked about the potential value of greeters in the practice, of a patient council to offer feedback and recommendations, and, with training, increasing the scope of service of medical assistants to allow nurses, advanced practice nurses, and physicians to spend more time with more complex care.

Contributing Voices
Frank Diamond

Steve Jobs famously staked his claim at the intersection of technology and creativity. Health insurers are looking for the intersection of technology and benefits knowledge, but are not quite sure how to get there. Do you hire information technicians and train them in the ways of health coverage, or do you hire (or promote from within) people who know insurance and train them to be IT savvy?

Contributing Voices
Frank Diamond

Forty-four thousand dollars is certainly a meaningful amount of money to me, but apparently not so meaningful as to encourage a sizeable portion of physicians to adopt meaningful use standards for electronic health records.

“As of May 2012, a total of 62,226 eligible professionals had attested to meaningful use under the Medicare program,” according to a letter in the February 21 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. “This represents 12.2 percent of the estimated 509,328 eligible physicians in the United States, including 9.8 percent of specialists and 17.8 percent of primary care providers.”

So while the growth in the number of participating doctors might seem dramatic at first glance (see our chart from the January issue of Managed Care), the actual numbers are underwhelming, according to the letter written by Adam Wright, PhD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (Reach him at awright@partners.org.)

Contributing Voices
Steven Peskin, MD

In April of last year, I wrote about the first release of recommendations from the American Board on Internal Medicine Foundation in conjunction with nine medical societies as part of a campaign: Choosing Wisely. The campaign aims to draw attention to and call into question commonly ordered tests like chest x-rays before surgery, frequently performed procedures like colonoscopies, and frequently prescribed treatments like antibiotics for upper respiratory infections.

Contributing Voices
Frank Diamond

Stories about underdogs (David and Goliath, Rocky, the 1969 Mets, the 2008 Barack Obama) are as much about overconfidence as they are about confidence. Yes, the challenger is scrappy. The favorite, on the other hand, needs just enough hubris to make his or her downfall ensure that the lesson resonates with every would-be David and Goliath — and in its entirety because we all have a little of each in us.

Contributing Voices
Neil Minkoff, MD

Amgen is making a huge bet on biosimilars and helping to define the market.

The company announced that it is targeting 6 biotech blockbusters and will start selling them as  biosimilars in 2017. The initial targets: Avastin, Herceptin, Rituxan, Erbitux, Humira and Remicade. That’s over $40 billion in product. Even a small savings, like 15% to 20%, would result in a huge change in premiums.

It is still unclear what hurdles will need to be cleared from the FDA and/or other regulatory bodies, but a few other things have become very clear:

Contributing Voices
Paul Terry

The Department of Labor has issued new guidelines concerning the wellness provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that relate to the use of financial incentives, and the Office of Health Plan Standards and Compliance Assistance is seeking public comment. This document proposes “amendments to regulations, consistent with the Affordable Care Act, regarding nondiscriminatory wellness programs in group health coverage." These regulations increase rewards for wellness participation or outcomes from 20 to 30% or up to 50% related to reducing tobacco use.

Contributing Voices
Neil Minkoff, MD

Neil Minkoff, MDResearchers in Britain recently published a paper in Pediatrics showing a dramatic swing in admissions for childhood asthma after indoor smoking was banned by the British in 2007. A hospitalization trend that had been steadily around 2% fell to minus 9%. The trend was sustained.  10.1542/peds.2012-2592

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