16 Things CEOs Need to Know in 2023

https://www.advisory.com/-/media/project/advisoryboard/abresearch/brand-campaigns/soi/wf8632394-ab-16-things-ceos-need-to-know.pdf#page=38

Understand the health care industry’s most urgent challenges—and greatest opportunities.

The health care industry is facing an increasingly tough business climate dominated by increasing costs and prices, tightening margins and capital, staffing upheaval, and state-level policymaking. These urgent, disruptive market forces mean that leaders must navigate an unusually high number of short-term crises.

But these near-term challenges also offer significant opportunities. The strategic choices health care leaders make now will have an outsized impact—positive or negative—on their organization’s long-term goals, as well as the equitability, sustainability, and affordability of the industry as a whole.

This briefing examines the biggest market forces to watch, the key strategic decisions that health care organizations must make to influence how the industry operates, and the emerging disruptions that will challenge the traditional structures of the entire industry.

Preview the insights below and download the full executive briefing (using the link above) now to learn the top 16 insights about the state of the health care industry today.

Preview the insights

Part 1 | Today’s market environment includes an overwhelming deluge of crises—and they all command strategic attention

Insight #1

The converging financial pressures of elevated input costs, a volatile macroeconomic climate, and the delayed impact of inflation on health care prices are exposing the entire industry to even greater scrutiny over affordability. Keep reading on pg. 6

Insight #2

The clinical workforce shortage is not temporary. It’s been building to a structural breaking point for years. Keep reading on pg. 8

Insight #3

Demand for health care services is growing more varied and complex—and pressuring the limited capacity of the health care industry when its bandwidth is most depleted. Keep reading on pg. 10

Insight #4

Insurance coverage shifted dramatically to publicly funded managed care. But Medicaid enrollment is poised to disperse unevenly after the public health emergency expires, while Medicare Advantage will grow (and consolidate). Keep reading on pg. 12

Part II | Competition for strategic assets continues at a rapid pace—influencing how and where patient care is delivered.

Insight #5

The current crisis conditions of hospital systems mask deeper vulnerabilities: rapidly eroding power to control procedural volumes and uncertainty around strategic acquisition and consolidation. Keep reading on pg. 15

Insight #6

Health care giants—especially national insurers, retailers, and big tech entrants—are building vertical ecosystems (and driving an asset-buying frenzy in the process). Keep reading on pg. 17

Insight #7

As employment options expand, physicians will determine which owners and partners benefit from their talent, clinical influence, and strategic capabilities—but only if these organizations can create an integrated physician enterpriseKeep reading on pg. 19

Insight #8

Broader, sustainable shifts to home-based care will require most care delivery organizations to focus on scaling select services. Keep reading on pg. 21

Insight #9

A flood of investment has expanded telehealth technology and changed what interactions with patients are possible. This has opened up new capabilities for coordinating care management or competing for consumer attention. Keep reading on pg. 23

Insight #10

Health care organizations are harnessing data and incentives to curate consumers choices—at both the service-specific and ecosystem-wide levels. Keep reading on pg. 25

Part III | Emerging structural disruptions require leaders to reckon with impacts to future business sustainability. 

Insight #11

For value-based care to succeed outside of public programs, commercial plans and providers must coalesce around a sustainable risk-based payment approach that meets employers’ experience and cost needs. Keep reading on pg. 28

Insight #12

Industry pioneers are taking steps to integrate health equity into quality metrics. This could transform the health care business model, or it could relegate equity initiatives to just another target on a dashboard. Keep reading on pg. 30

Insight #13

Unprecedented behavioral health needs are hitting an already fragmented, marginalized care infrastructure. Leaders across all sectors will need to make difficult compromises to treat and pay for behavioral health like we do other complex, chronic conditions. Keep reading on pg. 32

Insight #14

As the population ages, the fragile patchwork of government payers, unpaid caregivers, and strained nursing homes is ill-equipped to provide sustainable, equitable senior care. This is putting pressure on Medicare Advantage plans to ultimately deliver results. Keep reading on pg. 34

Insight #15

The enormous pipeline of specialized high-cost therapies in development will see limited clinical use unless the entire industry prepares for paradigm shifts in evidence evaluation, utilization management, and financing. Keep reading on pg. 36

Insight #16

Self-funded employers, who are now liable for paying “reasonable” amounts, may contest the standard business practices of brokers and plans to avoid complex legal battles with poor optics. Keep reading on pg. 38

Why large health insurers are buying up physicians

https://mailchi.mp/3a7244145206/the-weekly-gist-december-9-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

An enlightening piece published this week in Stat News lays out exactly how UnitedHealth Group (UHG) is using its vast network of physicians to generate new streams of profit, a playbook being followed by most other major payers. Already familiar to close observers of the post-Affordable Care Act healthcare landscape, the article highlights how UHG can use “intercompany eliminations”—payments from its UnitedHealthcare payer arm to its Optum provider and pharmacy arms—to achieve profits above the 15 to 20 percent cap placed on health insurance companies.

So far in 2022, 38 percent of UHG’s insurance revenue has flowed into its provider groups, up from 23 percent in 2017. And UHG expects next year’s intercompany eliminations to grow by 20 percent to a total of $130B, which would make up over half of its total projected revenue.

The Gist:

The profit motive behind payer-provider vertical integration is as clear as it is concerning for the state of competition in healthcare

UHG now employs or affiliates with 70K physicians—10K more than last year—seven percent of the US physician workforce, and the largest of any entity. 

Given the weak antitrust framework for regulating vertical integration, the federal government has proven unable to stop the acquisition of providers by payers. Eventually, profit growth for these vertically integrated payers will have to come from tightening provider networks, and not just acquiring more assets. That could prompt regulatory action or consumer backlash, if the government or enrollees determine that access to care is being unfairly restricted.

Until then, the march of consolidation is likely to continue.

CVS Health considering acquisition of Signify Health

https://mailchi.mp/11f2d4aad100/the-weekly-gist-august-12-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

According to a Wall Street Journal report, CVS is expected to submit a bid to purchase Dallas-based Signify Health, which supports physicians, payers, and health systems with tools and technology to provide in-home care. Signify acquired accountable care organization manager Caravan Health earlier this year. Last week, the Journal reported that Signify, valued at more than $4B, was looking for buyers. While CVS is said to be interested, so are private equity firms and other managed care companies. 

The Gist: CVS CEO Karen Lynch told investors during last week’s earnings call that the company plans to grow its primary care and home health offerings through mergers and acquisitions. The Signify bid, along with reports that CVS considered acquiring concierge primary care company One Medical, suggests that the retail pharmacy and insurance giant is charging ahead with its strategy of creating a vertically-integrated healthcare company.

As several newly public digital health and value-based care companies have seen share prices plummet and capital dry up in a cooling economy, they are becoming targets for large insurers and tech companies who have seen their own fortunes grow during the pandemic. Watch for more announcements from these “platform assemblers” in the months to come.

Amazon to acquire One Medical in $3.9B deal

Amazon plans to acquire virtual and in-person primary care company One Medical, the online retailer said July 21.  

In a cash deal valued at $3.9 billion, the aim is to combine One Medical’s technology and team with Amazon, it said in a news release. The goal of the acquisition, according to the two companies, is to offer more convenient and affordable healthcare in-person and virtually.

“The opportunity to transform healthcare and improve outcomes by combining One Medical’s human-centered and technology-powered model and exceptional team with Amazon’s customer obsession, history of invention and willingness to invest in the long-term is so exciting,” said Amir Dan Rubin, CEO of One Medical, in a company news release. “There is an immense opportunity to make the healthcare experience more accessible, affordable, and even enjoyable, for patients, providers and payers. We look forward to innovating and expanding access to quality healthcare services together.”

Amazon will acquire One Medical for $18 per share.

Completion of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by One Medical’s shareholders and regulatory approval. 

If the acquisition is approved, Mr. Rubin will remain CEO of One Medical. 

Primary care companies attract growing interest from insurers

https://mailchi.mp/9e0c56723d09/the-weekly-gist-july-8-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

Concierge primary care company One Medical is reportedly considering a sale after receiving interest from CVS Health, according to Bloomberg. While talks with CVS are no longer active, sources familiar with the situation say the company is weighing offers from other suitors. Also this week, there were rumors that Humana is interested in acquiring Florida-based Cano Health, which provides comprehensive care to over 200K seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans across six states. 

The Gist: We’ve long thought that the ultimate buyer for these primary care startups would be large, vertically integrated insurers, as many have struggled to achieve profitability while maintaining strong enrollment growth.

Competition among insurers to acquire care delivery assets has intensified, as payers look to Medicare Advantage as their primary growth vehicle, and aim to amass primary care networks capable of managing their growing senior care businesses. 

Two more hospital mergers scrapped after federal antitrust scrutiny

https://mailchi.mp/3390763e65bb/the-weekly-gist-june-24-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

Steward Health Care is abandoning its proposal to sell five Utah hospitals to HCA Healthcare, and New Jersey-based RWJBarnabas Health dropped its plan to purchase New Brunswick, NJ-based Saint Peter’s Healthcare System. These pivots come just weeks after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suits to block the transactions, saying they would reduce market competition. The FTC said in a statement that these deals “should never have been proposed in the first place,” and “…the FTC will not hesitate to take action in enforcing the antitrust laws to protect healthcare consumers who are faced with unlawful hospital consolidation.” 

The Gist: These latest mergers follow the fate of the proposed Lifespan and Care New England merger in Rhode Island, and the New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health and Englewood Health merger, which were both abandoned after FTC challenges earlier this year.

Antitrust observers find these recent challenges unsurprising, as all were horizontal, intra-market deals of the kind that commonly raise antitrust concerns. What will be more telling is whether antitrust regulators can successfully mount challenges of cross-market mergers, or vertical mergers between hospitals, physicians, and insurers. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants more information on UnitedHealth’s $5.4B LHC deal

https://mailchi.mp/8e26a23da845/the-weekly-gist-june-17th-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

LHC, a postacute care behemoth with several hundred home health and hospice locations, as well as a dozen long-term care hospitals, would greatly expand Optum’s ability to provide home-based and long-term care. The FTC’s second request for information threatens to delay the deal, which was set to close in the latter half of this year. 

The Gist: The LHC deal is the second UnitedHealth Group (UHG) transaction that antitrust regulators have targeted recently. The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit earlier this year to block UHG’s acquisition of Change Healthcare, alleging that acquiring a direct competitor for claims solutions would reduce competition. 

The FTC has historically focused its efforts on horizontal integration, but the LHC scrutiny, in combination with a recent inquiry into pharmacy benefit managers, indicates its focus may be expanding to vertical integration.

Hospitals scooping up physician practices increases health care prices

https://mailchi.mp/tradeoffs/research-corner-5222129?e=ad91541e82

This week’s contributor is Aditi Sen, the Director of Research and Policy at the Health Care Cost Institute. Her work uses HCCI’s unique data resources to conduct analyses that inform policy to promote a sustainable, accessible and high-value health care system.

High health care prices in the U.S. make it hard for people to access care, difficult for employers to provide insurance, and challenging for policymakers to balance health care spending with other budgetary priorities. That’s why it’s important to understand what drives prices higher and identify policies to keep prices from getting so high.

In a new paper in Health Affairs, Vilsa Curto, Anna Sinaiko and Meredith Rosenthal examined whether hospital and health systems’ acquisition of and contracting with physician practices – two forms of what is often called vertical integration – has led to higher prices for physician services. The researchers combined four sets of data from Massachusetts from 2013-2017 for their analysis.

They found that: 

  • The percent of physicians who joined health systems grew meaningfully: The percent of primary care physicians who remained independent dropped from 42% in 2013 to 31.5% in 2017, and the percent of independent specialists fell from 26% to 17%.
  • Over this same period, prices for physician services rose. Price increases were especially large – 12% for primary care physicians and 6% for specialists – when physicians joined health systems that had a high share of admissions in their area. 

This study stands out for several reasons. First, it shows vertical integration drives up health care prices. Second, the authors highlight actions states can and are considering taking to monitor and curb vertical integration, including antitrust enforcement and enacting laws to promote competition.

Finally, the Massachusetts data allow the public to better appreciate what’s happening across the state. Many earlier studies on health care consolidation have been limited to a subset of insurers, physicians or patients. Massachusetts is a leader when it comes to creating and sharing its data thanks to its all-payer claims database, which pulls together all the health care bills from private insurers and public programs like Medicare and Medicaid in the state. This critical information helps to illuminate patterns of care and prices and connect them to issues like consolidation and competition. Neither the federal government nor most states track how vertical integration mergers influence health care prices.

As these findings demonstrate, acquisitions and other forms of vertical integration impact what people pay for health care services. Given that prices in this sector continue to climb, this paper underscores the need for more state and national data to understand the downstream effects on all of us who use and participate in the U.S. health care system.

Even the largest health systems dwarfed by industry giants

https://mailchi.mp/f6328d2acfe2/the-weekly-gist-the-grizzly-bear-conflict-manager-edition?e=d1e747d2d8

Insurers, retailers, and other healthcare companies vastly exceed health system scale, dwarfing even the largest hospital systems. The graphic above illustrates how the largest “mega-systems” lag other healthcare industry giants, in terms of gross annual revenue. 

Amazon and Walmart, retail behemoths that continue to elbow into the healthcare space, posted 2021 revenue that more than quintuples that of the largest health system, Kaiser Permanente. The largest health systems reported increased year-over-year revenue in 2021, largely driven by higher volumes, as elective procedures recovered from the previous year’s dip.

However, according to a recent Kaufman Hall report, while health systems, on average, grew topline revenue by 15 percent year-over-year, they face rising expenses, and have yet to return to pre-pandemic operating margins. 

Meanwhile, the larger companies depicted above, including Walmart, Amazon, CVS Health, and UnitedHealth Group, are emerging from the pandemic in a position of financial strength, and continue to double down on vertical integration strategies, configuring an array of healthcare assets into platform businesses focused on delivering value directly to consumers.

What is an insurance company in 2022?

https://mailchi.mp/7788648545f0/the-weekly-gist-february-25-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

The largest health insurers are quickly becoming vertically integrated healthcare organizations that span the care and coverage continuum. While 2021 was a mixed year for these companies as healthcare volumes bounced back, their diversified portfolios helped cushion losses from higher claims.

The graphic above analyzes revenue growth by segment for the five largest insurers across the last two years. On average the insurance and pharmacy benefit management components of the companies grew at nine percent, while care delivery and integrated health services grew at much higher rates. UnitedHealth Group (UHG) and Anthem boasted the highest year-over-year revenue growth, driven by UHG’s Optum subsidiary and Anthem’s integrated health services.

Cigna and CVS Health each earned less than a quarter of their total revenue from their insurance arms last year. While Humana lags the others in topline revenue, it has assembled a robust portfolio of care delivery investments and partnerships, surpassed only by UHG. 

As antitrust scrutiny on vertical integration increases (case in point: the DOJ is now challenging UHG’s acquisition of Change Healthcare), insurers will face the hard task of integrating their portfolio of service—and demonstrating that they deliver value to consumers and patients.