Group health plans and health insurers must provide coverage for up to one year to college students who would otherwise lose health coverage when they take a medically necessary leave of absence, under a law signed by President Bush last month.

Called Michelle’s Law, after a New Hampshire student who died from cancer in 2005, Public Law 110-381 requires health plans and insurers to alert student beneficiaries about their rights under the law. The law is effective for plan years that begin on or after Oct. 9, 2009.

The law will only apply if a group health plan provides coverage to a dependent child who is a student at a postsecondary institution. It covers full time and part time students. In general, federal law does not require that group health plans cover dependents.

The law goes into effect when a medically necessary leave of absence or other change in enrollment causes the child to lose student status under the terms of the plan. Plans that do not require student status for older children do not have to comply with the law.

Benefits the child receives during the required extension must be the same as if the child had continued coverage as a student not on leave.

If the plan sponsor changes the design (e.g., changes insurers or moves from insured to self-insured coverage) and the new plan provides coverage for dependent children, the child would continue coverage under the new plan until the one-year period runs out.

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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.