Wellness programs can indeed save money overall with an approach that includes spreading the efforts out over several years (at least) and offering incentives for participants, according to a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The study looks at results from a health and productivity management (HPM) program at a large financial services corporation from 2005 to 2007. The results were computed by a review of medical and prescription claims data for about 50,000 employees. The three-year ROI was 2.45:1, but the program did not begin saving money until the second year. There were different approaches, including managing of lifestyle, disease, and depression, as well as access to a nurse hot line.

Participation in any of these in the first year averaged 18 percent. With the inclusion of incentives in the second and third years, participation increased to 64 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

The study says that “participants’ medical costs grew $35.48 more in year 1 than nonparticipants.’ However, in years 2 and 3, their medical costs grew $39.50 and $30.55 less than nonparticipants’, respectively.”

The program was intense. For instance, for lifestyle management, eight risk areas were addressed: weight, physical activity, nutrition, stress, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking, and back care.

The DM aspect targeted members with asthma, coronary artery disease, diabetes, chronic low back pain, COPD, heart failure, and stroke. The program featured “external health management consultants who gave strategic assistance throughout the life of the program. Ongoing vendor management and collaboration were a focal point of the company’s program, and weekly calls were conducted with all vendors to discuss ongoing integration touch points and to proactively address issues.”

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.