Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corporation, PNC Bank and IBM announce blockchain network

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/aetna-anthem-health-care-service-corporation-pnc-bank-and-ibm-announce-blockchain-network?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiT0RJNU16UTNOakl4WlRFNCIsInQiOiJ1WHRTRHREbE5rM1hkZmc1QnRcL3JCSjdxMWdtXC9weGE1OE4yT0tMZ2d0eGVCYnlXbkVDSmVtU09UTzZDaUVSTmE2aVRpT1YzSklCVmVsZ3VaMWVyMDlNa1Z2b25DbXZ2QnpxSUpySWluXC8zSDRoTmkya2JCMU53b1h5YkRQUDlNcyJ9

Network will eventually be open to new members for secure digital sharing of healthcare information.

Aetna, Anthem, IBM, Health Care Service Corporation and PNC Bank have partnered to create a blockchain technology network aimed at improving transparency and interoperability in the healthcare industry. 

The groups intend to use blockchain for more efficient claims and payment processing. Blockchain enables the secure exchange of information. It will also benefit more accurate provider directories.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Collaboration is key in the industry as a more cost-effective alternative to merging to create more competitive and efficient systems.

The current network is expected to add additional health organizations in the coming months, including providers, startups, and technology companies.

Initial members include three of the nation’s largest insurers, Anthem; HCSC,a customer-owned health insurer that includes Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans; Aetna, which is now part of the CVS Health business; IBM, which is a leading blockchain provider; and PNC Bank, which is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group.

Blockchain technology gives health systems an edge because it ideally creates faster, more efficient and secure claims and payment processing.

Insurers are mandated to maintain accurate provider directories, a time consuming and often manual practice involving numerous emails, phone calls and even fax exchanges.

For providers, a new technology that can actually reduce time spent in administrative clicks on a computer is a boon.

THE TREND

Despite major initiatives to digitize healthcare information, improvements in transparency and interoperability are still needed for that data to be shared.

Blockchain is designed to fill that role, reducing administrative errors and costs and ultimately enhancing patient care. The network also enables the companies to build and deploy new solutions.

Walmart last year filed a patent to use blockchain for medical records. A pharmaceutical industry consortium called the MediLedger Project, launched in 2017, is using blockchain to track pills across the supply chain, according to Fortune.

ON THE RECORD

“Through the application of blockchain technology, we’ll work to improve data accuracy for providers, regulators, and other stakeholders, and give our members more control over their own data,” said Claus Jensen, chief technology officer at Aetna

Rajeev Ronanki, Anthem chief digital officer Rajeev Ronanki: “Timely access to medical information has been a stumbling block for creating a seamless consumer experience. With a trusted foundation based on transparency and cryptography, we will provide a faster, safer and more secure way to exchange medical information to transform the  consumer healthcare experience.”

What’s more, blockchain will enable large networks to exchange health data in a transparent and controlled way, according to Lori Steele, general manager for Healthcare and Life Sciences for IBM.

“Using this technology, we can remove friction, duplication, and administrative costs that continue to plague the industry,” added Chris Ward, head of product, PNC Treasury Management.

 

Healthcare’s vertical mergers kick-started a massive industry shift in 2018. Will it pay off?

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payer/healthcare-s-vertical-mergers-kick-started-a-massive-industry-shift-2018-will-it-pay-off?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTnpBNE1HTmtObUl3WVRkayIsInQiOiJFOU1xMDRPMGtzMCtnWXU4MExUVFAzZ3Jrdm5cL2s3S1dMRkVldTRWS2QyNmJZU255UWRIWW14QmtXVkJ2T2VTeGpYTVBvQXZWWW1JVnB0S0crTXV3aFhDS0wrY3NzTmtEYmJEMHdvSG03bGkxS2ZlREdiaWZydFZkbkdlXC9tTHE1In0%3D&mrkid=959610&utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

Mergers and acquisitions deals consolidation

Two massive megamergers in CVS-Aetna and Cigna-Express Scripts dominated the conversation around mergers and acquisitions in healthcare.

Whether you think the mergers will help or hurt consumers, both deals have sparked a distinct shift across the industry as competitors search for ways to keep pace. It also frames 2019 as the year in which five big vertically integrated insurers in CVS, UnitedHealth, Cigna, Anthem and Humana begin to take shape.

Combined, the mergers totaled nearly $140 billion.

Both CVS and Cigna closed their transactions in the fourth quarter with promises that their new combined companies would “transform” the industry. Unquestionably, it’s already triggered some response from other players. Whether those companies can make good on their promises to improve care for consumers remains to be seen, and the payoff may not come for several years, as 2019 is likely to be a year of initial integration.

While CVS and Cigna hogged most of the spotlight, several other notable transactions across the payer sector could have smaller but similarly important consequences going forward.

WellCare acquires Meridian Health Plans for $2.5B

In May, WellCare picked up Illinois-based Meridian Health Plans for $2.5 billion, acquiring a company with an established Medicaid footprint with 1.1 million members. The deal boosted WellCare’s membership by 26%.

But the transaction also thrust WellCare back onto the ACA exchanges. Meridian has 6,000 marketplace members in Michigan.

Importantly, the acquisition gave WellCare a new pharmacy benefit manager in Meridian Rx. CEO Kenneth Burdick said it would provide “additional insight into changing pharmacy costs and improving quality through the integration of pharmacy and medical care.”

WellCare also makes out on CVS-Aetna transaction

WellCare was also a beneficiary of the CVS-Aetna deal after the Department of Justice required Aetna to sell off its Part D business in order to complete its merger.

The deal adds 2.2 million Part D members to WellCare, tripling its existing footprint of 1.1 million.

Humana goes after post-acute care

2018 was the year of post-acute care acquisitions for Humana. The insurer partnered with two private equity firms to buy Kindred Healthcare for $4.1 billion in a deal that was first announced last year. It used a similar purchase arrangement to invest in hospice provider Curo Health Service in a $1.4 billion deal.

Both acquisitions give Humana equity stake in the companies, with room to make further investments down the road. Kindred, in particular, is expected to further Humana’s focus on data analytics, digital tools and information sharing and improve the continuity of care for patients even after they leave the hospital.

Not to be outdone, rival Anthem also closed its purchase of Aspire Health, one of the country’s largest community-based palliative care providers.

UnitedHealth keeps quietly buying up providers, pharmacies

With ample reserves, UnitedHealth is always in the mix when it comes to acquisitions. This year was no different. The insurance giant snapped up several provider organizations to add to its OptumHealth arm. In June, it was one of two buyers of hospital staffing company Sound Inpatient Physicians Holdings for $2.2 billion. It also bought out Seattle-based Polyclinic for an undisclosed sum. The physician practice has remained staunchly independent for more than a century.

Most notably, UnitedHealth is still in the process of closing its acquisition of DaVita Medical Group. DaVita recently dropped the price of that deal from $4.9 billion to $4.3 billion in an effort to speed up Federal Trade Commission approval.

The Minnesota-based insurer is also clearly interested in specialty pharmacies to supplement its PBM OptumRx. UnitedHealth bought Genoa Healthcare in September, adding 435 new pharmacies under its umbrella. Shortly after, it bought up Avella Specialty Pharmacy, a specialty pharmacy that also offers telepsychiatry services and medication management for behavioral health patients.

Centene invests in a tech-forward PBM

Perhaps in an effort to keep pace with Cigna and CVS, Centene has made smaller scale moves in the PBM space, investing in RxAdvance, a PBM launched by former Apple CEO John Sculley. Following an initial investment in March, Centene sunk another $50 million into the company in October and then announced plans to roll the solution out nationally. Notably, CEO Michael Neidorff has said he is pushing the PBM to move away from rebates and toward a model that relies on net pricing.

“You talk about ultimate transparency—that gets us there,” he said recently.

 

 

 

Anthem ER policy could deny 1 in 6 visits if universally adopted, JAMA study warns

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/anthem-er-policy-could-deny-1-in-6-visits-if-universally-adopted-jama-stud/540241/

Dive Brief:

  • Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s controversial policy that denies emergency coverage based on a patient’s diagnosis after a visit to the ER, would affect as many as one in six (15.7%) ER visits if adopted universally by commercial insurers, according to a new study from JAMA Network.  
  • Anthem’s policy is currently active in six states. In July, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Medical Association of Georgia filed a federal lawsuit asserting that Anthem BCBS of Georgia is violating federal law requiring insurers to cover the costs of emergency care based on a patient’s symptoms rather than their final diagnosis.
  • “Our results demonstrate the inaccuracy of such a policy in identifying unnecessary emergency department visits,” Shih-Chuan Chou, lead author of the JAMA study, wrote. “This policy could place many patients who reasonably seek emergency care at risk of coverage denial.” 

Dive Insight:

As healthcare costs rise, insurers continue to seek ways to stem payments for emergency care, which hit their pockets the hardest. Anthem’s approach, taken in the summer of 2017, is to disincentivize what it deems to be unnecessary ER visits by denying coverage for patients with non-emergent ER discharge diagnoses. 

Earlier this year, UnitedHealth Group began reviewing ER claims with the most serious conditions in an effort to reduce or deny claims with improper evaluation and management codes. While similar in that they both crack down on ER visits, Anthem’s policy looks to move patients away from ERs and into less expensive urgent care centers and retail clinics, while UnitedHealth’s policy change is about making sure hospitals are billing properly.

The backlash has been much harsher for Anthem. According to a report issued this past July by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Anthem denied roughly 12,200, or 5.8%, of all emergency room claims in Missouri, Kentucky and Georgia from July 2017 to Dec. 2017 through this policy. Missouri’s hospital association was one of many health organizations to publicly oppose the policy.

In a statement to Healthcare Dive, Anthem defended its ER policy as a way to “ensure access to high quality, affordable healthcare” by encouraging consumers to receive care in “the most appropriate setting.” 

“If a consumer reasonably believes that he or she is experiencing an emergency medical condition, then they should always call 911 or go to the ED,” the statement reads. “But for non-emergency health care needs, EDs are often a time-consuming place to receive care and in many instances 10 times higher in cost than urgent care.” 

 

 

Dinged, Dented, Defiant: The ACA Is Still Standing

https://www.healthleadersmedia.com/dinged-dented-defiant-aca-still-standing

Texas v. Azar is the latest in a long line of lawsuits and legislation that Republicans have used to undermine the Affordable Care Act, which has shown itself to be remarkably resilient.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

A federal judge in Texas could slap a preliminary injunction on the ACA.

The case is the latest in a long string of efforts to dismantle the ACA since its inception in 2010.

A federal judge in Texas is poised to drop a ruling that could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Or, maybe not.

The Republican plaintiffs from 20 states in Texas v. Azar argued before U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in early September that the entire ACA became unconstitutional when Congress zeroed out the individual mandate penalty, effective 2019.

Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Republican plaintiffs are asking for a preliminary injunction. The Department of Justice, which declined to defend portions of the ACA, also urged O’Conner to delay any injunction until after the enrollment period, saying any attempts to impose the injunction during the enrollment period would invite “chaos.”

If the injunction goes through, it could end premium subsidies for ACA beneficiaries and cripple enrollment. The Urban Institute has estimated that 17 million people would lose their health insurance coverage if the ACA was overturned.

As potentially catastrophic as this sounds, the healthcare sector doesn’t seem to be overly concerned. In fact, business couldn’t be better.

A report in Axios shows that many players in the healthcare sector are prospering under the ACA. The website notes that S&P 500 healthcare index of 63 major companies has grown by 186% since the ACA became law in 2010, outstripping the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones.

In addition, health insurance companies are flush. Shares of UnitedHealth Group have gone up more than 700% since 2010, and the stock price of ACA marketplace insurer Centene has gone up 1,100% over the same period, Axios reports.

While hospitals have had a tougher time of it, especially in states that refused to expand Medicaid, they’re still seeing reductions in charity care and bad debt owing.

Regardless of how O’Connor rules in Texas v. Azar, ACA payers, providers, and other stakeholders will continue to presume that the law isn’t going anywhere, says healthcare economist Gail Wilensky.

“They’re assuming it’ll be around, or something very similar will be,” says Wilensky, a former director of Medicare and Medicaid, and a former chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.

“I don’t think people are regarding any serious likelihood of it going away again,” she says.

Even if O’Connor, appointed to the court in 2007 by President George W. Bush, agrees with the severability arguments raised by the Republican governors and attorneys general in 20 states who brought the suit, the matter likely would get shot down on appeal, Wilensky says.

” I would be surprised if it doesn’t get reversed someplace else,” says Wilensky, now a senior fellow at Project HOPE.

“If it had go all the way to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court isn’t going to tolerate it, but I don’t know that it would even get that far,” she says.

The case is just one in a long string of legal and legislative actions Republicans are taking at the state and federal level to either undermine or bolster the ACA.

Earlier this year, O’Connor sided with Texas and five other states and threw out an Obama administration tax on states receiving Medicaid funds.

The Republican-controlled Congress has tried more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that Republicans may try again in 2019.

While the signature legislation of the Obama era has been dinged and dented, it’s also proven to be remarkably resilient.

Wilensky says the ACA is resilient because it solves a problem “for a small but non-trivial group of people,” and that Republicans don’t have a credible alternative.

“Once a benefit is in place for any measurable amount of time, certainly two or three years would qualify, there’s no precedent for removing it,” she says.

“And most of the proposals that had come up did not seriously get the job done,” Wilensky says.

“They really weren’t effective as an alternative and you simply aren’t going to take away a benefit, like the extension of insurance to people who are above the poverty line and not offered traditionally employer sponsored insurance without having a credible alternative.

“It’s just not going to happen because there are too many issues that have already been adjudicated at a more serious level,” Wilensky says. “I don’t know why they did this other than that this is 20 attorneys general and they’re running for something.”

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on the state of healthcare from Scott Becker

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/10-thoughts-on-the-state-of-healthcare-from-scott-becker.html

1. Healthcare, given that we have 325 million-plus people in the U.S. with an aging and growing population that is living longer, is a very complex problem.

2. When I hear any executive, technology person or sales person look at an audience and say, “If everyone would just use this type of coaching app for diabetes or behavioral health, we would cut billions of dollars in costs,” I cringe, scoff, laugh and tend to get angry. I recently heard this in a speech I listened to.

3. Healthcare at its core is really taking care of individual patients. I see the theories behind population health and preventive health but I’m skeptical that it’s a fix-all.

4. When people say there should be no fee for service, I tend to think they’re representing some constituency. I assume at some level someone will still need to get paid to do something.

5. Hospitals and physicians and many providers will struggle as they become more reliant on governmental pay and as commercial patients are siphoned off. Government reimbursements will soften.

6. I’m not so dumb as to not see the irony in the campaign signs that said “get the government’s hands off my Medicare.”

7. Notwithstanding No. 6, whenever the government does place fingers on the scale, they are often wrong, and it often has massive unintended consequences.

8. The system costs with 325 million-plus people in the U.S. are crazy and insurance costs per family are insane.

9. Both parties are tone deaf as to the needs of the American people. Simply stated people that are poor need healthcare, and people that aren’t poor need affordable healthcare. These people are both Republicans and Democrats.

10. Given the quasi-monopolies of insurance companies in certain areas and the lack of insurance options, it’s likely we will need some sort of public option at some point.

 

Behind Rising Health-Care Bills: Secret Hospital Deals

https://www.realclearhealth.com/2018/09/20/behind_rising_health-care_bills_secret_hospital_deals_278180.html?utm_source=morning-scan&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=mailchimp-newsletter&utm_source=RC+Health+Morning+Scan&utm_campaign=82a1cdfd43-MAILCHIMP_RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b4baf6b587-82a1cdfd43-84752421

Image result for Behind Rising Health-Care Bills: Secret Hospital Deals

Last year, Cigna Corp. and the New York hospital system Northwell Health discussed developing an insurance plan that would offer low-cost coverage by excluding some other health-care providers, according to people with knowledge of the matter. It never happened.

The problem was a separate contract between Cigna and New York-Presbyterian, the powerful hospital operator that is a Northwell rival. Cigna couldn’t find a way to work around restrictive language that blocked it from selling any plans that didn’t include New York-Presbyterian.

Read Full Article »

Health care startup aims to eliminate hospital and doctor bills

https://www.axios.com/startup-ooda-health-aims-to-eliminate-hospital-doctor-bills-e1fc6bdc-6755-4627-b954-59fc35326d3e.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

Image result for upfront payment

New payment startup Ooda Health has raised $40.5 million on the premise that its technology will make sure patients never get another bill from a hospital or doctor.

Why it matters: Ooda Health not only has big-name venture capitalists on board (Oak HC/FT and DFJ led the funding round), but also has large health insurers and providers as investors. However, while the company attempts to cut administrative waste, it won’t address the health care system’s underlying pricing and spending habits.

The details: Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Blue Shield of California, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Dignity Health and Hill Physicians are the initial industry investors.

  • Ooda Health would not disclose their investments. Seth Cohen, Ooda Health’s co-founder and president, said the company got its start after Blue Shield of California CEO Paul Markovich recommended a meeting with Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean.

How it works: Health insurance companies pay Ooda Health an administrative fee and a risk-sharing payment. Ooda Health then connects with hospitals and doctors and pays them instantly based on what is in the electronic health record instead of a traditional medical claim. Any outstanding payment issues would be handled through the insurance company, rather than directly by providers.

  • Cohen made this analogy: If you’re at a restaurant and you use your credit card for the meal, the restaurant gets paid immediately. The credit card company, not the restaurant, then follows up with you about how to pay off what you owe.
  • Health insurers would avoid late fees and penalties for missing payment deadlines, patients who are encountering higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs wouldn’t have to pay providers directly, hospitals wouldn’t have to chase outstanding balances, and providers would get paid quickly.
  • “It is a bad model for providers to collect from patients,” Cohen said, noting that collection agencies are cut out in this scenario.

Yes, but: Out-of-network hospitals and doctors would still charge exorbitant fees on their own, and administrative work wouldn’t be completely eradicated. This also makes the electronic health record a de facto tool for billing instead of solely a repository for patient medical information.