Pharmacy and medical cost increases for health plans have been relatively steady, according to data collected by Towers Perrin from 2006 through 2008, with the costs associated with account-based health plans (CDHP with HRA or HSA) mirroring traditional health plans, despite their growing presence.

Overall, the top 10 percent of companies (by rate of increase) reported a rate of increase of at least 15 percent in 2008 health care costs over the prior year, while the bottom 10 percent reported a reduction in 2008 health care costs over the prior year.

Mark Olson, a health care actuary and principal at Towers Perrin, says “Even though the medical and pharmacy costs have been in the high single-digit range, the increases are still outpacing inflation and it’s still creating problems for plan sponsors and health plans that are negotiating rate increases.

“For the last couple of years, costs have been in the 6 percent to 8 percent range on average,” he continues. “The variations have been broad, but we’re seeing a lot more account-based plans being implemented.”

He points out that in 2008, half of all plans experienced a 6 percent increase, but only 10 percent experienced a 1 percent decrease.

Range of increases in medical and pharmacy costs by plan type, 2006–2008

Source: Towers Perrin. 2008 Health Care Cost Survey.

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.