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

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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.

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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

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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.

 

How hospitals protect high prices

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-5af4f54b-8427-48c2-b638-933a1ae4883a.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

Large hospital systems don’t command high prices just because patients like them, or just because they have strong market share. There’s also another big reason: their contracts with insurance companies actively prohibit the sort of competitive pressures a free market is supposed to support.

“The free market has been distorted in an unhealthy way,” health care consultant Stuart Piltch told the Wall Street Journal’s Anna Wilde Mathews for this deep dive into hospitals’ pricing practices.

How it works: Hospital systems are consolidating rapidly and buying up physicians’ practices (which charge higher prices once they’re part of a hospital).

On top of that, per WSJ: Hospitals’ deals with insurance companies “use an array of secret contract terms to protect their turf and block efforts to curb health-care costs.”

  • Some hospitals do not allow their prices to be posted on the comparison-shopping sites insurers provide to their customers.
  • They often require insurers to cover every facility or doctor the hospital owns, and prohibit insurers from offering incentives — like lower copays — for patients to use less expensive competitors.
  • When Walmart, the country’s biggest private employer, wanted to exclude the lowest-quality 5% of providers from its network, its insurers couldn’t do so because of their hospital contracts.

The other side: Hospital executives told the Journal that mergers don’t drive higher prices, and reiterated their position that hospitals have to collect higher payments from private insurance to make up for the lower rates they get from Medicare and Medicaid.

My thought bubble: High-deductible health plans are increasingly popular, in part, because of the idea that patients will use their purchasing power to drive a more efficient system overall.

  • But if Walmart doesn’t have enough market power to actually penalize low-quality providers, you and I definitely don’t, either — especially if we can’t find out what the prices are, and especially if we only have one hospital to choose from in the first place.

Go deeper: Think drug costs are bad? Try hospital prices

 

 

Montana health plan strikes victory over cost-sharing reduction payments

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/montana-health-plan-strikes-victory-over-cost-sharing-reduction-payments?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTWpNM05qYzVPR1k0TldKbCIsInQiOiJTd2RzaU9sS1FuKzBOaVF3RXp5RkNqc3plbXp0NFlhdkk1MFlSNGY1NUJKa2NHd3IrXC9OdlJoSW1EQ2FIM3hkVkVzZ2FuaUhkcTNXcUtNczhNQWI2NFd1ckNCOHViSzdFbjRUS2xGMTdrXC90M1BjbCtRcVVnbkxweFwvdlY5VnZGViJ9

Montana Health Co-Op. Credit: Google Street View

The insurer says it is owed $5 million in payments mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

Health insurers in the Affordable Care Act market got a major win Tuesday when the Montana Health Co-op became the first plan to win its case for cost-sharing reduction payments.

Montana Health Co-op said it is owed an estimated $5 million in CSRs for 2017.

United States Court of Federal Claims Judge Elaine Kaplan said it didn’t matter that Congress never appropriated the funds, as argued by the Department of Justice. Kaplan sided with the Montana Health Co-op that said the Affordable Care Act created the mandatory obligation whether Congress approved the funds or not.

Judge Kaplan directed the parties to file a joint status report on or before October 4.

CSRs were set up under the ACA to allow insurers to pay the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for lower-income consumers.

The Department of Health and Human Services began making the CSR payments in 2014.

In that same year, Republicans in the House of Representatives sued the Obama Administration over the payments, saying they and others in Congress had never approved the funds. They won and an appeal was brought, but under President Donald Trump, the appeal became moot.

In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an opinion that the funds were never appropriated and the government stopped the payments.

While insurers no longer received the funds, they were still mandated under the ACA to offer to qualifying consumers the benefit of lower out-of-pocket costs.

Several insurers filed lawsuits, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, Maine Community Health Options, LA Care Health Plan and Sanford Health Plan, according to Health Affairs. Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative led a class action lawsuit.

Insurers have also filed lawsuits to get payments promised through another ACA program, risk corridors. Under the three-year, budget neutral risk corridors program, the government was to take money from plans that had fewer higher risk beneficiaries and give the  funds to those that suffered losses in insuring higher risk consumers.

In making her decision Tuesday, Judge Kaplan cited a lawsuit brought by Moda Health Plan over risk corridor payments. In that case, the Federal Circuit Court said the government was obligated to make risk corridor payments to insurers.

But that case was overturned in mid-June, when a majority of a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the government did not have to pay health insurers the full amount owed to them in risk corridors payments.

 

 

Humana completes sale of long-term care insurance policy business KMG, at a loss of $790 million

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/humana-completes-sale-long-term-care-insurance-policy-business-kmg-loss-790-million?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWTJNeE5UZzRNalU1WWprMSIsInQiOiJRNjRWYXFQcSt3aHpGMlB4RVwvbXA3ckt4MVlxZ04zeHl5VWtKMzB4V2dpa21LTTY3U2pMdWlnSHh3MXRMWlwvWkdQNEdldGVjRWpWUG5Md0xmbTlQVE0zVTdFUStxY0lQcmNpUkRRRHpPelZSOUNBTW90WDNNbGd1ekZsZGZHVU04In0%3D

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Humana has completed the sale of its wholly-owned subsidiary KMG America Corporation, in a transaction first announced in November 2017.

Humana has owned KMG since 2007.

KMG subsidiary, Kanawha Insurance Company, offers commercial, long-term care insurance policies and currently serves an estimated 29,300 policyholders.

Humana sold its shares in KMG for a reported $2.4 billion to HC2 Holdings, which includes Continental General Insurance Company, based in Texas.

In its second quarter earnings statement, Humana reported a $790 million loss on the sale of KMG, which is expected to close during the third quarter.

Humana said it would no longer have plans in the commercial long-term care insurance business.

Humana instead is closing on two transactions to acquire an at-home provider in Kindred at Home and Curo Health Services, which specializes in hospice care, according to the Q2 report.

Curo provides hospice care in 22 states. Humana and a consortium of TPG Capital and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, purchased Curo for $1.4 billion, Humana announced in April.

Humana will have a 40 percent interest.

Also, this past June, Humana partnered with Walgreens Boots Alliance in a pilot to operate senior-focused primary care clinics inside of two drug stores in the Kansas City, Missouri area.

Revenue remained strong for the insurer, which specializes in Medicare Advantage plans. Its MA business in Q2 realized both growth and lower utilization.

While revenue remained strong, Humana’s net income dropped to a reported $684 million this year compared to $1.8 billion last year.

The insurer benefitted from a lower tax rate year-over-year as a result of the tax reform law and negatively felt the return of health insurance tax in 2018.

“Our strong 2018 financial results are testimony to the underlying improvement in our operating metrics, like Net Promoter Score, digital self-service utilization and call transfer reduction, and to the growing effectiveness of our national and local clinical programs,” said Bruce D. Broussard, Humana’s CEO and president. “Also, we took another large step this quarter in helping our members, especially those living with chronic conditions, by beginning the integration of important clinical services through our investments in Kindred at Home and Curo, and through our partnership with Walgreens.”