The vicious terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have, appropriately, refocused the government's attention on a coordinated response. And though President Bush has pledged to be a faithfulsteward of the country's business while directing the war against terrorism, nobody is predicting that what had been pressing health care issues before Sept. 11 will now be dispatched swiftly.

The Patients' Bill of Rights was at the top of that list. Tantalizingly close to resolution after years of PARCAs and partisan feuds, the issue quickly went into exile that terrible morning; it may not emerge for some time, despite Bush's dictum to his cabinet to keep some focus on domestic issues — including patients' rights.

If the issue does resurface this year, conferees will have a lot of differences to bridge between the House- and Senate-passed bills. It remains to be seen whether the newfound bipartisanship on Capitol Hill will extend to this and other concerns that fall short of the nation's very survival. Many observers feel that only those bills with broad backing from both parties — patients' rights not being one of them — will pass by the end of the year.

The other once-hot topic now on ice is Medicare reform. It's becoming clear that one aspect of that, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, is toast — despite its popularity with voters and with politicians who promised it to voters. Bush's proposition of a $180 billion economic-relief package in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks would consume the entire budget surplus, leaving nothing for a drug benefit.

Outside the beltway, though, the machinations of Medicare reform continue. A U.S. judge granted the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' request for a preliminary injunction, halting implementation of Bush's drug-discount card program while the merits of the NACDS/National Community Pharmacists' Association lawsuit to stop the program are heard. Thomas Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (formerly HCFA), says the government will appeal the ruling, suggesting that the discount proposal may be the only action beneficiaries will see on prescription drugs for a while.

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.