Washington Initiatives

Is the Patient Access to Responsible Care Act, affectionately known as PARCA, dead? Let's say its heart still may be beating, but faintly. Its chief proponent in the House, Georgia Republican Charles Norwood, did little to satisfy the naysayers with his revisions to the bill.

Norwood recently redrafted PARCA to:

  • Remove language that could be interpreted to guarantee issue and community rating
  • Clarify that employers cannot be held liable for medical decisions, unless they were the decision makers
  • Make clear that the bill does not contain any-willing-provider provisions.

Sample reaction: The Health Benefits Coalition, an ad hoc group of 31 organizations, says, "The only way employers can escape liability under this bill is to give up any responsibility for benefit decisions affecting their employees." And the Health Insurance Association of America demurred, "PARCA still contains numerous onerous provisions that benefit lawyers, bureaucrats and providers at the expense of consumers."

But the real bad news for PARCA is that about a half-dozen House Republicans said they would support the Democratic alternative — the Patient Bill of Rights — rather than support broad-based health reform legislation. Stick to patient protection legislation, the rebels told Norwood.

The Democratic bill now has more than 140 cosponsors. But don't expect Norwood to go gently into the night. A spokesman says he has commitments from enough representatives to bring the new PARCA to a vote.

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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.