The National Institute for Health Care Management says more than two fifths of the 18.8 percent increase in outpatient drug spending from 1999 to 2000 was attributable to higher demand. A bit more than a third of the spending increase was linked to newer medications.... HMOs begin declaring this month whether they will stay in Medicare. HealthMetrix Research predicts withdrawals displacing 700,000 members.... "Everyone in health care hates HCFA," Julie Rovner wrote in Congress Daily/AM the same week HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson decided to run the agency for one week. Thompson wanted to see how "we can do things better," but a new identity wasn't what others had in mind; at the end of the week, Thompson was considering changing HCFA's name to the Medicare and Medicaid Association.... One of the more interesting proposals floating around Washington comes from Kenneth Cooper, M.D., the president's reported choice to become the next surgeon general: tax deductions for meeting personal health targets, e.g., for cholesterol and blood pressure. Did someone say "Privacy"?.... Mary Jane England, M.D., is leaving the Washington Business Group on Health this month to become president of her alma mater, Regis College.... Beginning July 1, San Francisco city workers will be entitled to sex-change benefits for surgery, hormone therapy, and counseling.

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.