Frank Diamond

Managing Editor

Clinician executives at health insurance plans can stop worrying about whether consumers are savvy enough to navigate the changing landscape of coverage and start worrying about how small businesses will fare under the Affordable Care Act. (Well, keep worrying about both because both will continue to be problems.)

Let’s just look at small businesses for now. Expect a learning curve, to say the least, according to a study by EHealth, the parent company of eHealthInsurance, a private health insurance exchange. (See:"Small Employer Health Insurance Survey" )

Only about 18 percent of the 259 small businesses that buy insurance through can confidently explain what a health insurance exchange is, while 62 percent say they don’t understand the concept at all. Another 20 percent have “only a vague understanding of the role that exchanges are expected to play.”

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 6.31.15 AM.png

Government run exchanges will be launched in October.  Not far away.

Fifty-six percent of businesses with fewer than 50 employees think that they need to provide coverage to workers or be fined, but the fine applies only to businesses with more than 50 people working at least 30 hours a week.

“I think chaos is not too strong of a word to describe what’s going on in this market,” Robert Hurley, EHealth’s senior vice president for sales and operations, tells Bloomberg Businessweek, a publication that minces no words in its headline: “Small Employers Are Clueless About Obamacare.”

For health plans, it might be a matter of “So little time; so much education that needs to be done.” Or is that the government’s job? What do you think?

Frank Diamond is Managing Editor of Managed Care

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.