John Marcille

John Marcille

Turn around for just one second and health plans find all sorts of issues racing toward them. There is, of course, the ferment taking place in the pharmacy benefit management industry that Thomas Reinke ably examines in our cover story.

Developments on deadline include Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, pointing out that the government is considering drastic cuts to Medicare Advantage that will put the entire program at risk. Ignagni objects to the Medicare Advantage payment rates for 2010 that are “based on the assumption that Medicare physician payments will be cut by 21 percent — a policy everybody agrees Congress will never let go into effect.”

Meanwhile, a new Government Accounting Office report, titled “Fraud and Abuse Related to Controlled Substances Identified in Selected States,” alleges that tens of thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries and providers were involved in fraudulent purchases of controlled substances through the Medicaid programs in California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.

About 65,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in the five selected states acquired the same type of controlled substances from six or more different medical practitioners during fiscal years 2006 and 2007, with the majority of beneficiaries visiting from 6 to 10 medical practitioners. Such activities, known as doctor shopping, resulted in about $63 million in Medicaid payments and do not include medical costs (e.g., office visits) related to getting the prescriptions. As plans beef up their information technology systems, will they do a better job of catching these things?

These are just three of the many issues that need to be tracked. We’ll do our best.

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.