Diabetics receive better care in VA hospitals than they do in health plans, according to a recent study — but the implications are open for debate. "Our results suggest that a federally sponsored national health care organization can provide care that is equivalent to or better than that provided by high-performing commercial managed care plans," says the report, "Diabetes Care Quality in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System and Commercial Managed Care: The TRIAD Study," which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

That's not the lesson that America's Health Insurance Plans sees. "It shows that if you focus on scientific evidence, reward good performance, and follow guidelines, quality improves," says AHIP spokeswoman Susan Pisano. "These are the very same approaches that managed care had advocated and advanced." The study compares treatment of 1,285 people in VA health systems in California, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey with 6,920 people enrolled in eight managed care plans.

The results were adjusted to compensate for demographic variations between the two groups.

Recommended annual blood tests were given 93 percent of the time to diabetics in the VA system; 83 percent of the time for those in the managed care plans. Eye exams were given 91 percent of the time at the VA; 75 percent of the time at the health plans. The VA system also outscored the health plans in administering foot exams and cholesterol tests.

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.