Self-referral is not the biggest contributor to the growth of in-office imaging by physicians, according to a report prepared by the Lewin Group for a coalition of physicians and medical groups. Rather, it's the immediate access to imaging results and the expanded uses for diagnostic imaging that drive the growth of these technologies. The report appears to debunk the concern among some policymakers that physicians who own imaging equipment are overusing the technology for financial gain, allowing Medicare Part B to foot the bill. Reductions in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule's conversion factor in 2002 resulted in a significant reduction in the growth in Medicare-allowed charges for imaging between 2001 and 2003.

The researchers say that if self-referral were an important driver of the number of imaging services, they would have seen an acceleration in the growth of imaging services from 2001 to 2003 to offset the reductions in physician income brought about by reductions in the conversion factor. This did not, in fact, occur. The researchers caution that restrictions on self-referral of imaging services may reduce beneficiaries' access to these services. Mohit Ghose of America's Health Insurance Plans says this report could lead to more transparency. "Once consumers see how much imaging tests cost and how these tests affect the health care dollar, they can interact better with the health care system."

Growth in the volume of physician-billed services, 1999–2003

Source: Issues in the Growth of Diagnostic Imaging Services: A Case Study of Cardiac Imaging, the Lewin Group.

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.