James W. Davis, PhD
Hawaii Medical Service Association (an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association) and the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii
Ronald Y. Fujimoto, DO
Hawaii Medical Service Association
Henry Chan, BS
Hawaii Medical Service Association
Deborah T. Juarez, Sc.D
Hawaii Medical Service Association and the John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Hawaii


Purpose: Studies worldwide in emergency departments (ED) find that a substantial proportion of patients seek care for non-urgent conditions.

Managed care programs may help address this overuse of ED facilities, but non-urgent ED care is not easily identified outside of ED settings. This article employed an algorithm using insurance data to identify and characterize patients having low urgency ED visits. Non-urgent is the term used in the ED literature for ED visits that might have been managed outside an ED setting such as in a physician office. Low urgency ED visits could include visits that require an ED setting but for less severe conditions than high urgency ED visits.

Design: Analysis of ED visits by members of the largest health insurer in Hawaii.

Methodology: Visits were defined as low urgency if classified by the ED as low severity and if, in addition, the patients required no procedures beyond physician and nursing care. A simple example would be a physician order for a laboratory test. Even if the test was routine, the fact the doctor ordered the test during the ED visit suggests the result might be needed right away to make a management decision. Another example of a procedure would be a radiograph.

Principal finding: Medicaid participants, children age 1 to 5, and people living on less populated Hawaiian Islands most frequently had low urgency visits. The visits were also more common on weekends than weekdays, and more common among males compared to females. Of all low urgency visits by Medicaid participants, 32% were by repeat users of the ED.

The percentage for members of non-Medicaid plans was 16%. People with one low urgency visit in the past year were more than twice as likely as others to have a similar visit in the next year. People with two or more low urgency visits in the past year were five times as likely to have a low urgency ED visit in the next year.

Conclusion: The results identify several areas such as youth, island of residence, and past history of low urgency ED visits that might become the focus of managed care programs.

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.