As enrollment in consumer-directed health plans grows, employers will find diminished savings. “For the first time in more than seven years of reporting, CDHPs nationally did not create a savings [for the employer] over the previous plan offering,” says Bill Stafford, vice president for member services at United Benefits Advisors.

Actuaries and statisticians call it “regression to the mean.” Stafford says that when plan offerings are new it takes a few years for the new items to settle into steady pricing. “This, combined with the potential for insurers and employers to provide disproportionate incentives through health reimbursement or health savings accounts, can cause an early savings greater than what might otherwise be anticipated,” says Stafford.

And while enrollment is growing, that rate of growth for CDHPs has slowed compared to 2009 and 2010. In the report, “2011 UBA Health Plan Survey,” CDHPs are growing at a rate of 14 percent. This is about two thirds of the 2010 rate, bringing the percentage of CDHPs offered by employers to about 23 percent of all plans offered. CDHPs also cover more employees (17 percent) than HMOs (12 percent), says Stafford.

Employers are continuing to offset members’ out-of-pocket expenses by offering a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) or health savings account (HSA). The average employer contribution to an HRA was $1,656 (up from $1,481 in 2010) for single employees and $3,198 for family coverage (up from $2,857 in 2010).

Stafford says clinical executives at health plans and insurers will continue to see shifting in health plan enrollment particularly from further implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

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.