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Employer Health Insurance Costs $18,142 in 2016, in KFF Study

Consumers face increasing health insurance deductibles in 2016, faster-growing than earnings and well above general price inflation, featured in the Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits, 2016. This report, updated annually, is the go-to source on the availability of, cost for, and trends in U.S. employer-based health plans. The average annual health insurance premium in 2016 reached $18,142, the survey found, about $600 more than in 2015. Over the past ten years since 2006, workers’ contributions to health insurance premiums increased 78%; employers’ contributions grew 58% over the decade.   To help stem costs, employers are adopting new services to

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The State of Mobile Apps in 2016 and Healthcare Implications

Some of the fastest-growing mobile phone apps help people manage life-tasks every day, like getting real-time directions when driving, finding dates, getting rides, and tracking health, according to The 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report from comScore. The chart from the comScore Mobile Metrix survey illustrates some popular apps well-used by people on smartphones, with one of the fastest growth rates found for the Fitbit app — 1,524% growth over two years, from June 2014 to June 2016. In comparison, the Uber app visits increased 828% in the period, half as fast, and the Tinder app, 220%. Some key topline results of

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Employers Changing Health Care Delivery – Health Reform At Work

Large employers are taking more control over health care costs and quality by pressuring changes to how care is actually delivered, based on the results from the 2017 Health Plan Design Survey sponsored by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Health care cost increases will average 5% in 2017 based on planned design changes, according to the top-line of the study. The major cost drivers, illustrated in the wordle, will be specialty pharmacy (discussed in yesterday’s Health Populi), high cost patient claims, specific conditions (such as musculoskeletal/back pain), medical inflation, and inpatient care. To temper these medical trend increases,

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PhRMA vs. Employers: Healthcare Costs In the Eye of the Beholder

In the past week, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the advocacy organization for the branded prescription drug industry, published Medicines: Costs in Context,” the group’s lens on the value of prescription drugs in the larger healthcare economy. Their view: that prescription drug costs comprise a relatively low share of health care spending in America, and a high-value one at that. PhRMA contends that 10% of the health care dollar was allocated to prescription drugs in 2015, the same proportion as in 1960. “Even with new treatments for hepatitis C, high cholesterol and cancer, spending on retail prescription

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More Patients Morph Into Financially Burdened Health Consumers

Health care payment responsibility continues to shift from employers to employee-patients, More of those patients are morphing into financially burdened health consumers, according to TransUnion, the credit agency and financial risk information company, in the TransUnion Healthcare Report published in June 2016. Patients saw a 13% increase in their health insurance deductible and out-of-pocket (OOP) maximum costs between 2014 and 2015. At the same time, the average base salary in the U.S. grew 3% in 2015, SHRM estimated. Thus, deductibles and OOP costs grew for consumers more than 4 times faster than the average base salary from 2014 to 2015.  In

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Workplace Wellness Goes Holistic, Virgin Pulse Finds

“Work is the second most common source of stress, just behind financial worries,” introduces The Business of Healthy Employees report from Virgin Pulse, the company’s 2016 survey of workplace health priorities published this week. Virgin Pulse collaborated with Workforce magazine, polling 908 employers and 1,818 employees about employer-sponsored health care, workers’ health habits, and wellness benefit trends. Workplace wellness programs are becoming more holistic, integrating a traditional physical wellness focus with mental, social, emotional and financial dimensions for 3 in 4 employers. Wearable technology is playing a growing role in the benefit package and companies’ cultures of health, as well

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The State of Health Benefits in 2016: Reallocating the Components

Virtually all employers who offer health coverage to workers extend health benefits to all full-time employees. 94% offer health care coverage to opposite-sex spouses, and 83% to same-sex spouses. One-half off health benefits to both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners (unmarried). Dental insurance, prescription drug coverage, vision insurance, mail order prescription programs, and mental health coverage are also offered by a vast majority (85% and over) of employers. Welcome to the detailed profile of workplace benefits for the year, published in 2016 Employee Benefits, Looking Back at 20 Years of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S., from the Society for Human

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PwC’s “Behind the Numbers” – Where the Patient Stands

The growth of health care costs in the U.S. is expected to be a relatively moderate 6.5% in 2017, the same percentage increase as between 2015 and 2016, according to Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2017, an annual forecast from PwC. As the line chart illustrates, the rate of increase of health care costs has been declining since 2007, when costs were in double-digit growth mode. Since 2014, health care cost growth has hovered around the mid-six percent’s, considered “low growth” in the PwC report. What’s driving overall cost increases is price, not use of services: in fact, health care

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Healthcare Costs for a Family of Four Will Be $25,826 in 2016

If you had exactly $25,826 in your pocket today, would you rather buy a new Chrysler 200 sedan, send a son or daughter to a year of college at Wake Forest University, or pay for your family’s health care in an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization? Welcome to the annual 2016 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), one of the most important health economic studies I’ve relied on for many years. This year’s underlying question is, “Who cooked up this expensive recipe?” posed in the report’s title. The key statistics in this year’s MMI are that: Healthcare costs for a typical family of four

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Financial Wellness Declines In US, Even As Economy Improves

American workers are feeling financial stress and uncertainty, struggling with health care costs, and seeking support for managing finances. 75% of employees feel financially insecure, with 60% feeling stressed about their financial situation, according to the 2016 Workplace Benefits Report, based on consumer research conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The overall feeling of financial wellness fell between 2013 and 2015. 75% of U.S. workers don’t feel secure (34% “not very secure” and 41% “not at all secure”), with the proportion of workers identifying as “not at all secure” growing from 31% to 41%. Financial wellness was defined for this

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Cost Comes Before “My Doctor” In Picking Health Insurance

Consumers are extremely price-sensitive when it comes to shopping for health insurance. The cost of health insurance premiums, deductibles and copays, prescription drug coverage and out-of-pocket expenses rank higher in the minds of health insurance shoppers than the list of doctors and hospitals included in a health plan for health consumers in 2015. The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) surveyed 1,500 workers in the U.S. ages 21-64 for their views on workers’ satisfaction with health care in America. The results of this study are compiled in EBRI’s March 2016 issue of Notes, Views on Employment-based Health Benefits: Findings from the 2015 Health

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People Want Healthcare Sherpas

8 in 10 Americans would like one trusted person to help them figure out their health care, according to the Accolade Consumer Healthcare Experience Index Poll, conducted by The Harris Poll. The study gauged how Americans feel about their healthcare, especially focusing on employer-sponsored health insurance. One-third of people (32%) aren’t comfortable with navigating medical benefits and the healthcare system; a roughly percentage of people aren’t comfortable with their personal knowledge to make financial investments, either (35%). Buying a car, a home, technology and electronics? Consumers are much more comfortable shopping for these things. Consumers say that the most onerous

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Sleep And Health/Tech – It’s National Sleep Awareness Week

One in three people suffer from some form of insomnia in the U.S. With sleep a major contributor to health and wellness, we recognize it’s National Sleep Awareness Week. As a health economist, I’m well aware of sleep’s role in employee productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism. U.S. companies lose 11.3 days of lost work performance per person who suffers from insomnia, according to research from a Harvard-based team published in the journal Sleep. The cost of this to U.S. business is about $63 billion annually. Science writers at the BBC developed a long list of modern-life issues that deter us from

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Prescription Drug Costs Will Be In Health Benefits Bullseye in 2016

Prescription drug costs have become a front-and-center health benefits cost issue for U.S. employers in 2015, and in 2016 the challenge will be directly addressed through more aggressive utilization management (such as step therapy and prior authorization), tools to enable prescription intentions like DUR, and targeting fraud, waste and abuse. Consumers, too, will be more financially responsible for cost-sharing prescription drugs, in terms of deductibles and annual out-of-pocket limits, as described in the PBMI 2015-206 Prescription Drug Benefit Cost and Plan Design Report, sponsored by Takeda. The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute has published this report for 15 years, which provides neutral, detailed survey

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51% of Americans Say It’s Government’s Responsibility To Provide Health Insurance

For the first time since 2008, a majority of Americans say government is responsible for ensuring that people have health insurance. The first chart shows the crossing lines between those who see government-assured health insurance in the rising dark green line in 2015, and people who see it as a private sector responsibility. The demographics and sentiments underneath the 51% are important to parse out: people who approve of the Affordable Care Act are over 3x more likely to believe in government sponsoring health insurance versus those who disapprove, 80% compared with 26%. The demographic differences are also striking, detailed

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What Retail Telemedicine Means For Healthcare Providers

Direct-to-consumer retail health options are fast-growing in the U.S. health ecosystem. CVS Health brought three telemedicine vendors to its pharmacy brick-and-mortar stores. CVS also acquired Target’s pharmacies, expanding its retail health footprint. Rite Aid has added HealthSpot kiosks to its pharmacies, while Walgreens expanded its relationship with MDLive. And, Cox Cable acquired Trapollo to bring remote health monitoring into subscribers’ homes, along with the cable company’s venture with Cleveland Clinic, Vivre Health. Coupled with the growing supply side of telemedicine vendors, the latest National Business Group on Health survey found that most large employers plan to expand the telemedicine services they

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Health consumers’ cost increases far outpace wage growth

American workers are working to pay for health care costs, having traded off wage increases for health premiums, out-of-pocket costs and growing high deductibles. Welcome to the 2015 Employer Health Benefits survey conducted annually by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). Premiums are growing seven times faster than wages.  The report calculates that high-deductibles for health insurance have grown 67% from 2010 to 2015. In the same period, wages grew a paltry 10%, while the Consumer Price Index rose 9%. The first chart illustrates that growing gap between relatively flat wages and spirally health

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Fitbit Means Business When It Comes To Privacy

Fitbit, the company that makes and markets the most popular activity tracker, is getting serious about its users’ personal data. The company  announced that it will enter into HIPAA business associate agreements with employers, health plans, and companies that offer workers the devices and the apps that organize and analyze consumers’ personal data. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ personal health information generated in a doctor’s office, a hospital, lab, and other healthcare entities covered under the law (as such, “covered entities”). However, data generated through activity tracking devices such as Fitbit’s many wearable technologies have

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A Company’s Healthy Bottom Line Requires Healthy Employees

“What is the meaning of health to our businesses?” asked Dr. Thomas Parry of the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) at a dinner last night, convened by the Pittsburgh Business Group on Health on the eve of the organization’s annual meeting being held today in Steel City. I was fortunate to attend the dinner and hear Dr. Parry speak; I will be addressing the meeting today on the topic, “Building a Better Health Consumer.” The IBI is researching the direct link between the top line of a healthy employee base and healthy workers’ impacts on the bottom line. A report will be

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Employers pushing consumerism for health benefits in 2016

This is the dawning of the Age of Consumer-Driven Health, the tipping point of which has been passed. The data point for this assertion comes from the National Business Group on Health‘s annual 2016 Large Employers’ Health Plan Design Survey. The tagline, “reducing costs while looking to the future,” suggests some of the underlying tactics employers will use to manage their financial burden of providing health insurance to workers. That burden will continue to shift to employees and their dependents in the form of greater cost-sharing: for premiums, co-pays and co-insurance, and the hallmark of consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs): high(er) deductibles.

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Sports and the Internet of Things: the Scoop & Score podcast

From elite soccer and football fields to youth athletes in public school gyms, wearable technology has come to sports bringing two big benefits of gathering data at the point of exercise: to gauge performance and coach back to the athlete in real time, and to prevent injury. I discussed the advent of the Internet of Things in sports on the Scoop and Score podcast with Andrew Kahn, sports journalist and writer, and Stephen Kahn, sports enthusiast and business analyst. [In full disclosure these two Kahn’s are also my brilliant nephews.] We recorded the podcast on July 14, 2015, the day

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Congratulations, Fitbit – what $4.1 bn looks like

When I clipped you to my underwear for the first time in 2011, I’d no idea that you were about to change my life, health and mindfulness. You were my first digital activity tracker and since then, I’ve purchased three versions of you…as well as others. Fitbit, you really did change my life and help me become more mindful of my activity, my calorie burn, ultimately supporting me in losing weight and keeping it off. Since its launch in 2009, the brand name “Fitbit” has become synonymous with digital activity tracking, the most popular digital pedometer on the market —

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Employers go beyond physical health in 2015, adding financial and stress management

Workplace well-being programs are going beyond physical wellness, incorporating personal stress management and financial management. Nearly one-half of employers offer these programs in 2015. Another one-third will offer stress management in the next one to three years, and another one-fourth will offer financial management to workers, according to Virgin Pulse’s 2015 survey of workplace health priorities, The Busness of Healthy Employees. The survey was published June 1st 2015, kicking off Employee Wellbeing Month, which uses the Twitter hashtag #EWM15. It takes a village to bolster population health and wellness, so Virgin Pulse is collaborating with several partners in this effort

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Avoiding Wrinkles: A World Without Tobacco

May 31st is World No Tobacco Day, heralded by the World Health Organization, and celebrated by the advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health (with the very appropriate acronym ASH). Smoking is one of the most addictive (anti-)health behaviors around, so persuading people to quit the habit continues to challenge public health advocates. Enter ASH’s engaging campaign called “The Wrinkler,” with the introductory question, “Ever notice how some people who are 25 look 45?” The video continues to explain how we can “expedite the aging process….Ladies, wish you were half your age? Don’t wait for him to look younger; make yourself

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Mental health at the workplace – US companies rank #1 for stress

People with anxiety, depression, interpersonal challenges, and substance abuse go to work every day. Together, these factors erode the mental health and wellbeing of workers, and this negatively impacts companies’ productivity, workplace morale, and profitability. Employers are increasingly taking notice of their role in promoting mental health on-the-job, a trend captured in the report Promoting Mental Well-being: Addressing Worker Stress and Psychosocial Risks, an international survey of employers published in May 2015 by Buck Consultants, part of Xerox. The survey polled 439 employers in 31 countries, and the report focuses on the results in four of those nations: Brazil, Singapore, the

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Workers at work for the health benefits but absent when it comes to talking costs

As much as the Affordable Care Act is bolstering health insurance rolls for the uninsured, people who have enjoyed health insurance at work continue to highly value that benefit, according to a survey from Benz Communications and Quantum Workplace published April 2015. Based on a national sample of over 2,000 employees surveyed in October 2014 about workplace benefits. The research re-confirms the long-term reality of workers working in America for the health benefit. Benz/Quantum note that 89% of workers say health benefits play a part in remaining on-the-job, and half say the health benefit is a “major” part of remaining

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Humana and Weight Watchers Partner in Weight Loss for Employers

More employers are recognizing the link between workers who may be overweight or obese on one hand, and health care costs, employee engagement and productivity on the other. As a result, some companies are adopting wellness programs that focus on weight loss as part of an overall culture of health at the workplace. Humana and Weight Watchers are the latest example of two health brands coming together to address what is one of the toughest behavior changes known to humans: losing weight. Humana will extend access to Weight Watchers for the health plan’s enrollees in an integrated wellness program. The program

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Employers grow wellness programs, and ramp up support for fitness tech

Offering wellness programs is universal among U.S. employers, who roughly divide in half regarding their rationale for doing so: about one-half offer wellness initiatives to invest in and increase worker health engagement, and one-half to control or reduce health care costs. Two-thirds of companies offering wellness will increase their budgets, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP)  report, Workplace Wellness Trends, 2015 survey results. The IFEBP polled 479 employers in October 2014, covering corporate, public, and multi-employer funds in the U.S. and Canada. The statistics discussed in this post refer solely to U.S. organizations included in the study

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Whole (Health) Foods – the next retail clinic?

Long an advocate for consumer-directed health in his company, John Mackey, co-CEO and co-Founder of Whole Foods Market, is talking about expanding the food chain’s footprint in retail health. “Americans are sick of being sick,” Mackey is quoted in “Whole Foods, Half Off,” a story published in Bloomberg on January 29, 2015. Mackey talks about being inspired by Harris Rosen, a CEO in Florida, who has developed a workplace clinic for employees’ health care that drives high quality, good outcomes, and lower costs. Mackey imagines how Whole Foods could do the same, beginning in its hometown in Austin, TX. He

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Telehealth is in demand, driven by consumer convenience and cost – American Well speaks

Evidence of the rise of retail health grows, with the data point that on-demand health care is in-demand by 2 in 3 U.S. adults. American Well released the Telehealth Index: 2015 Consumer Survey, revealing an American health public keen on video visits with doctors as a viable alternative to visiting the emergency room. Virtual visits are especially attractive to people who have children living at home. [For context, this survey defines “telehealth” as a remote consultation between doctor and patient]. Convenience drives most peoples’ interest in telehealth: saving time and money, not leaving home if feeling unwell, and “avoiding germs

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People in consumer-directed health plans are — surprise! — getting more consumer-directed

People with more financial skin in the health care game are more likely to act more cost-consciously, according to the latest Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) poll on health engagement, Findings from the 2014 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey published in December 2014. Health benefit consultants introduced consumer-directed health plans, assuming that health plan members would instantly morph in to health care consumers, seeking out information about health services and self-advocating for right-priced and right-sized health services. However, this wasn’t the case in the early era of CDHPs. Information about the cost and quality of health care services was scant,

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Building the health ecosystem: new bedfellows coming together

2015 is already becoming a year where bedfellows of different stripes are joining together to build a health care ecosystem well beyond hospitals, doctors and health plans. Announcements launched last week at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and coming out this week at the J.P. Morgan Conference in San Francisco, the first two weeks of 2015 reveal that new entrants and legacy health stakeholders are crossing corporate and cultural chasms to (try and) solve challenges that prevent us from getting to that Holy Grail of The Triple Aim: improving health care outcomes, driving down per capita costs,

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The Internet of Healthy Me – putting digital health in context for #CES2015

Men are from Mars and Women, Venus, when it comes to managing health and using digital tools and apps, based on a poll conducted by A&D Medical, who will be one of several hundred healthcare companies exhibiting at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas. Digital health, connected homes and cars, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will prominently feature at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. I’ll be attending this mega-conference, meeting up with digital health companies and platform providers that will enable the Internet of Healthy “Me” — consumers’ ability to self-track,

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Health IT Forecast for 2015 – Consumers Pushing for Healthcare Transformation

Doctors and hospitals live and work in a parallel universe than the consumers, patients and caregivers they serve, a prominent Chief Medical Information Officer told me last week. In one world, clinicians and health care providers continue to implement the electronic health records systems they’ve adopted over the past several years, respond to financial incentives for Meaningful Use, and re-engineering workflows to manage the business of healthcare under constrained reimbursement (read: lower payments from payors). In the other world, illustrated here by the graphic artist Sean Kane for the American Academy of Family Practice, people — patients, healthy consumers, newly insured folks,

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Power to the health care consumer – but how much and when?

Oliver Wyman’s Health & Life Sciences group names its latest treatise on the new-new health care The Patient-to-Consumer Revolution, subtitled: “how high tech, transparent marketplaces, and consumer power are transforming U.S. healthcare.” The report kicks off with the technology supply side of “Health Market 2.0,” noting that “the user experience of health care is falling behind” other industry segments — pointing to Uber for transport, Amazon for shopping, and Open Table for reserving a table. The authors estimate that investments in digital health and healthcare rose “easily ten times faster” than the industry has seen in the past. Companies like

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From comprehensive coverage to skin-in-the-game healthcare: Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey

For employer-sponsored health care, trends continue for health premium costs to increase, high-deductible health plans to gain adoption, and cost-sharing to shift to workers in companies’ health plans. This is the top-line of the just-released Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) 2014 Employer Health Benefits Survey, the annual go-to resource on company-sponsored health care trends and realities. As the Kaiser Family Foundation team said during their teleconference to health writers this morning, employer-sponsored health care in America is moving “from comprehensive coverage to skin-in-the-game coverage.” The extent of said skin-in-the-game varies from small to large firms: in small companies (defined in this

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Inflection point for telehealth in 2014

The supply side of telehealth has been readying itself for nearly a decade. The demand side appears to be aligning in 2014 for adoption to grow and sustain (some) solid business models. On the demand side, Towers Watson’s 2014 survey of large employers forecasts growth among companies that will offer telemedicine in 2015. Towers found that 37% of employers planned to offer telemedicine to workers as a lower-cost site of care; 34% more employers were considering telemedicine in 2016 or 2017.  The health benefits adviser calculates that employers could save over $6 billion if industry replaces virtual health consultations with

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Employers engaging in health engagement

Expecting health care cost increases of 5% in 2015, employers in the U.S. will focus on several tactics to control costs: greater offerings of consumer-directed health plans, increasing employee cost-sharing, narrowing provider networks, and serving up wellness and disease management programs. The National Business Group on Health’s Large Employers’ 2015 Health Plan Design Survey finds employers committed to health engagement in 2015 as a key strategy for health benefits. More granularly, addressing weight management, smoking cessation, physical activity, and stress reduction, will be top priorities, shown in the first chart. An underpinning of engagement is health care consumerism — which

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Novel concept: people + health pricing information = market competition

In the post-Recession American economy, people shop for value in all things. And that includes health care services like MRIs — when patients are informed of pricing differences among imaging facilities and given free rein to pick-and-choose among them. In addition to lowering imaging costs in a community, price transparency also generated competition between providers. Health Affairs published this research detailed in Price Transparency for MRIs Increased Use of Less Costly Providers And Triggered Provider Competition in August 2014. An Economics 101 course teaches us that a well-oiled (perfect) market depends on lots of sellers of a product and lots of

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The Milliman Medical Index at $23,215: A Toyota Prius, a tonne of tin, or health insurance for a family?

It costs $23,215 to cover a family of four for health care, according to the 2014 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), the annual gauge of healthcare costs from the actuarial firm. The growth rate of 5.4% from 2013 is the lowest annual change since Milliman launched the Index in 2002. This is equivalent to a new Toyota Prius or a tonne of tin. While employers cover most of these costs, the portion employees bear continues to increase. This year, insured workers will take on 42% of the total, or on average, $9,695. This is up by $552 over 2013, or 6%

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Wearable tech + the workplace: driving employee health

Employer wellness programs are growing in the U.S., bundled with consumer-directed plans and health savings accounts. A wellness company’s work with employee groups is demonstrating that workers who adopt mobile health technologies — especially “wearables” coupled with smartphone apps — helps change behavior and drive health outcomes. Results of one such program are summarized in Wearables at Work, a technical brief from Vitality, a joint venture of Humana and Discovery Ltd., published April 23, 2014. Vitality has been working in workplace wellness since 2005, first using pedometers to track workers’ workouts. In 2008, Vitality adopted the Polar heart rate monitor for

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Employers spending more on wellness in 2014, with growing focus on food

Employers continue to invest in wellness programs aimed at improving employees’ health. In 2014, 3 in 4 employers plan to offer incentives to employees who participate in health improvement programs compared = and the financial value of these incentives has grown to $500, up from $338 in 2010. In its fifth year, the National Business Group on Health (NBGH)/Fidelity Investments have conducted their benefit consulting survey, culminating in the report, Employer Investments in Improving Employee Health. In the past 5 years, employers have increased their investments in wellness: the chart illustrates the growth of programs addressing physical activity/weight management and health eating,

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HIMSS14 Monday Morning Quarterback – The Key Takeaways

Returning to terra firma following last week’s convening of the 2014 annual HIMSS conference…taking some time off for family, a funeral, the Oscars, and dealing with yet another snowstorm…I now take a fresh look back at #HIMSS14 at key messages. In random order, the syntheses are: Healthcare in America has entered an era of doing more, with less...and health information technology is a strategic investment for doing so. The operational beacon going forward is moving toward The Triple Aim: building population health, enhancing the patient’s experience, and lowering costs per patient. The CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, spoke of the

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Patient engagement and mobile health – design and timing matter

Thinking about personal health information technology – the wearable devices, remote health monitors, digital weight scales, and Bluetooth-enabled medical equipment scaled for the home – there are two glasses. One is half-full and the other, half-empty. The half-full glass is the proliferation of consumer-facing devices like Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike, which comprise the lion’s market share in the health wearables segment; the mass adoption of mobile phones and tablets; consumers’ multi-screen media behavior (as tracked by Nielsen); and consumers’ growing share of medical spending, now about 40% of annual spending (or something north of $8,000 for a family of four

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A CT for $300 or $2,781 – why health price transparency matters

  Charges for medical, pharmacy and dental services can vary by more than 300%. This means that in one place, a procedure that costs $100 can cost $300 for the same treatment in another location or practice, discovered by Change Healthcare in their latest Healthcare Transparency Index 2013 Q3 Report, published in January 2014. The 300% is the average overall across dozens of health services used by the 67,000 plan members Change Healthcare analyzed based on health plan enrollees’ health care utilization in the third quarter of 2013. These health care services include office visits (behavioral health, physical therapy and

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Employers will strongly focus on costs in health benefit plans for 2014; so must consumers

Employers who sponsor health insurance in America are at a fork on a cloudy road: they know that they’re in the midst of changes happening in the U.S. health system. Except for one certainty: that health care costs too much. So employers’ plans for health benefits in 2014 strongly focus on getting a return-on-investment from health spending in an uncertain climate, according to Deloitte’s 2013 Survey of U.S. Employers. Key findings are that: Employers will grow their use of workers’ cost-sharing, continuing to shift more financial responsibility onto employees They will expand other tactics they believe will help address cost

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Color us stressed – how to deal

Coast-to-coast, stress is the modus vivendi for most Americans: 55% of people feel stressed in every day life, according to a study from Televox. A Stressful Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance paints a picture of a nation of physically inactive people working too hard and playing too little. And far more women feel the stress than men do. 64% of people say they’re stressed during a typical workday. 52% of people see stress negatively impacting their lives. And nearly one-half of people believe they could better manage their stress. As a result, physicians say that Americans are experiencing negative

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Bundles in health care are the prix fixe menu

Ordering up and financing health care in the U.S. looks like the proverbial Chinese food menu, picking and paying for “one from column A, and one from column C.” But that’s no way to operate a well-oiled machine for delivering quality health care, according to Healthcare Shifts from á la Carte to Prix Fixe from Strategy&, an analysis of the fragmented, high-cost and only fair quality American health system. One solution to this challenge is bundled payment. “No one has an overarching view of the entire process,” the report opines, “with an eye toward improving customer service, quality, or costs.” Further exacerbating the sub-optimal

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Innovating and thriving in value-based health – collaboration required

In health care, when money is tight, labor inputs like nurses and doctors stretched, and patients wanting to be treated like beloved Amazon consumers, what do you do? Why, innovate and thrive. This audacious Holy Grail was the topic for a panel II moderated today at the Connected Health Symposium, sponsored by Partners Heathcare, the Boston health system that includes Harvard’s hospitals and other blue chip health providers around the region. My panelists were 3 health ecosystem players who were not your typical discussants at this sort of meeting: none wore bow ties, and all were very entrepreneurial: Jeremy Delinsky

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The new era of consumer health risk management: employers “migrate” risk

The current role of health insurance at work is that it’s the “benefits” part of “compensation and benefits.” Soon, benefits will simply be integrated into “compensation and compensation.” That is, employers will be transferring risk to employees for health care. This will translate into growing defined contribution and cost-shifting to employees. Health care sponsorship by employers is changing quite quickly, according to the 2013 Aon Hewitt Health Care Survey published in October 2013. Aon found that companies are shifting to individualized consumer-focused approaches that emphasize wellness and “health ownership” by workers to bolster behavior change and, ultimately, outcomes. The most

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7 Women and 1 Man Talking About Life, Health and Sex – Health 2.0 keeping it real

Women and binge drinking…job and financial stress…sleeplessness…caregiving challenges…sex…these were the topics covered in Health 2.0 Conference’s session aptly called “The Unmentionables.” The panel on October 1, 2013, was a rich, sobering and authentic conversation among 7 women and 1 man who kept it very real on the main stage of this mega-meeting that convenes health technology developers, marketers, health providers, insurers, investors, patient advocates, and public sector representatives (who, sadly, had to depart for Washington, DC, much earlier than intended due to the government shutdown). The Unmentionables is the brainchild of Alexandra Drane and her brilliant team at the Eliza

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The health care automat – Help Yourself to healthcare via online marketplaces

Imagine walking into a storefront where you can shop for an arthroscopy procedure, mammogram, or appointment with a primary care doctor based on price, availability, quality, and other consumers’ opinions? Welcome to the “health care automat,” the online healthcare marketplace. This is a separate concept from the new Health Insurance Marketplace, or Exchange. This emerging way to shop for and access health care services is explored in my latest paper for the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), Help Yourself: The Rise of Online Healthcare Marketplaces. What’s driving this new wrinkle in retail health care are: U.S. health citizens morphing into consumers,

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10 Reasons Why ObamaCare is Good for US

When Secretary Sebelius calls, I listen. It’s a sort of “Help Wanted” ad from the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that prompted me to write this post. The Secretary called for female bloggers to talk about the benefits of The Affordable Care Act last week when she spoke in Chicago at the BlogHer conference. Secretary Sebelius’s request was discussed in this story from the Associated Press published July 25, 2013. “I bet you more people could tell you the name of the new prince of England than could tell you that the health market opens October 1st,” the

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Urgent care centers: if we build them, will all patients come?

Urgent care centers are growing across the United States in response to emergency rooms that are standing-room-only for many patients trying to access them. But can urgent care centers play a cost-effective, high quality part in stemming health care costs and inappropriate use of ERs for primary care. That’s a question asked and answered by The Surge in Urgent Care Centers: Emergency Department Alternative or Costly Convenience? from the Center for Studying Health System Change by Tracy Yee  et. al. The Research Brief defines urgent care centers (UCCs) as sites that provide care on a walk-in basis, typically during regular

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What to expect from health care between now and 2018

Employers who provide health insurance are getting much more aggressive in 2013 and beyond in terms of increasing employees’ responsibilities for staying well and taking our meds, shopping for services based on cost and value, and paying doctors based on their success with patients’ health outcomes and quality of care. Furthermore, nearly one-half expect that technologies like telemedicine, mobile health apps, and health kiosks in the back of grocery stores and pharmacies are expected to change the way people regularly receive health care. What’s behind this? Increasing health care costs, to be sure, explains the 18th annual survey from the National

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As Account-Based Health Plans Grow, Will Americans Save More in Health Accounts?

The only type of health plan whose membership grew in 2012 was the consumer-directed health plan (CDHP), according to a survey from Mercer, the benefits advisors. Two-thirds of large employers expect to offer CDHPs by 2018, five years from now. 40% of all employers (small and large) anticipate offering a CDHP in five years. The growth in CDHPs going forward will be increasingly motivated by the impending “Cadillac tax” that will be levied on companies that currently offer relatively rich health benefits. Furthermore, Mercer foresees that employers will also expand wellness and health management programs with the goal of reducing health

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The part-time medical home: retail health clinics

The number of retail health clinics will double between 2012 and 2015, according to a research brief from Accenture, Retail medical clinics: From Foe to Friend? published in June 2013. What are the driving market forces promoting the growth of retail clinics? Accenture points to a few key factors: Hospitals’ need to rationalize use of their emergency departments, which are often over-crowded and incorrectly utilized in cases of less-than-acute care. In addition, hospitals are now financially motivated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, health reform) to reduce readmissions of patients into beds (particularly Medicare patients with acute myocardial infarction [heart attacks],

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The emerging economy for consumer health and wellness

The notion of consumers’ greater skin in the game of U.S. health care — and the underlying theory of rational economic men and women that would drive people to greater self-care — permeated the agenda of the 2nd annual Consumer Health & Wellness Innovation Summit, chaired by Lisa Suennen of Psilos Ventures. Lisa kicked off the meeting providing a wellness market landscape, describing the opportunity that is the ‘real’ consumer-driven health care: people getting and staying well, and increasing participation in self-management of chronic conditions. The U.S. health system is transforming, she explained, with payors beginning to look like computer

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Consumer-directed health isn’t always so healthy

Giving health consumers more skin in the game doesn’t always lead to them making sound health decisions. Over four years in consumer-directed health plans, enrollees used one-quarter fewer visits to doctors every year and filled one fewer prescription drugs. CDHP members also received fewer recommended cancer screenings, and visited the emergency room more often. These rational health consumer theory-busting findings were published in the June 2013 issue of the Health Affairs article, Consumer-Directed Health Plans Reduce The Long-Term Use of Outpatient Physician Visits And Prescription Drugs by Paul Fronstin of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and colleagues from IBM and RxEconomics,

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Wellness at work – Virgin tells it all

Health, happiness and engagement among employees are closely-linked and drive productivity in the workplace. But there’s a gap between the kind of wellness services employers offer workers to bolster health, and the programs that people actually want. The current state of employer wellness programs is described in a survey conducted by Virgin HealthMiles and Workforce, The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities, published in June 2013. There’s a gap between what workers want for wellness and what employers are offering. Most-demanded by workers are health on-site food choices desired by 79% of employees; but, only 33%

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Health care costs for a family of 4 in 2013: a college education, a diamond or a 4-door sedan

If you have $22,030 in your wallet, you can buy: A princess-cut diamond A Ford Focus 4-door A year’s tuition at James Madison University (in-state, 2013-14) A health plan for a family of four. The 2013 Milliman Medical Index gauges the annual health care costs for a typical American family at $22,030, up $1,302 from 2012 — a 6.3% increase, nearly 6x the all-items increase of 1.1% for the U.S. Consumer Price Index from April 2012-April 2013. That 1.1% includes the costs of food and energy, along with cars, tobacco, shelter, and other consumer goods. In 2013, the average family will

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Most employers will provide health insurance benefits in 2014…with more costs for employees

Nearly 100% of employers are likely to continue to provide health insurance benefits to workers in 2014, moving beyond a “wait and see” approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As firms strategize tactics for a post-ACA world, nearly 40% will increase emphasis on high-deductible health plans with a health savings account, 43% will increase participants’ share of premium costs, and 33% will increase in-network deductibles for plan members. Two-thirds of U.S. companies have analyzed the ACA’s cost impact on their businesses but need to know more, according to the 2013 survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

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Americans feeling more financially insecure

One in three workers does not feel financially secure. The proportion of Americans who feel “not at all secure” grew to 16% from 12% between 2011 and 2012, based on the question, “When it comes to paying your bills and keeping up with living expenses, how financially secure do you feel these days?” Women are much more likely than men to feel financially insecure, representing a 33% growth rate in financial insecurity. These sobering financial statistics come to us from the UNUM study, 2012 Employee Education and Enrollment Survey: Employee Perspectives on Financial Security, published May 8, 2013. Based on the question asked – paying

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The Slow Economy Has Slowed Health Spending

Why has health cost growth in the U.S. slowed in the past few years? It’s mostly due to the economy, argues the Kaiser Family Foundation in Assessing the Effects of the Economy on the Recent Slowdown of Health Spending. The answer to this question is important because, as the American economy recovers, it begs the next question: will costs increase faster once again as they did in previous go-go U.S. economies, further exacerbating the budget deficit problems in the long-term? KFF worked with Altarum to develop an economic model to answer these questions. The chart illustrates the predicted vs. actual

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Health cost transparency comes to Cummins Engine

I can think of 3 reasons why workers at Cummins Engine are blessed: They are employed. They receive health insurance from their employer. They are about to be able to access a tool designed to help them become better health care consumers. Cummins, based in Columbus, Indiana (far from Silicon Valley), has 24,000 employees and dependents who will be covered by this plan. The company ranked 186 on the Fortune list and has 46,000 employees worldwide. So the firm’s health spending would be in the range of many millions of dollars. I found the company’s employee health plan HealthSpan offering

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Bending the cost-curve: a proposal from some Old School bipartisans

Strange political bedfellows have come together to draft a formula for dealing with spiraling health care costs in the U.S. iin A Bipartisan Rx for Patient-Centered Care and System-Wide Cost Containment from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). The BPC was founded by Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell. This report also involved Bill Frist, Pete Domenici, and former White House and Congressional Budget Office Director Dr. Alice Rivlin who together work with the Health Care Cost Containment Initiative at the BPC. The essence of the 132-page report is that the U.S. health system is

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Food = Health for employers, hospitals, health plans and consumers

Food is inextricably bound up with health whether we are well or not. Several key area of the Food=Health ecosystem made the news this week which, together, will impact public and personal health. On the employer health benefits front, more media are covering the story on CVS strongly incentivizing employees to drop body mass index (BMI) through behavioral economics-inspired health plan design of a $50 peer month penalty. Michelin, whose bulky advertising icon Bibendum has more than one “spare tire,” introduced a program to combat health issues, including but not limited to BMI and high blood pressure, according to the

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US Health Executives Predict the ACA Will Increase Health Insurance Premiums

As a result of implementing the Affordable Care Act (health reform), most U.S. health executives crystal balls foresee health care insurance premiums will increase over 10% in the next three years. 4 in 10 predict premiums will grow over 25% over the next 3 years. This sobering forecast comes out of a Munich RE Health survey conducted among 326 health industry executives in March 2013. Those polled included representatives from health plans, managed care, disease management firms, and health insurance brokers and agents. How do health execs expect employers would deal with such fast-rising health premium costs? Why shift more

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The need for a Zagat and TripAdvisor in health care

  Patient satisfaction survey scores have begun to directly impact Medicare payment for health providers. Health plan members are morphing into health consumers spending “real money” in high-deductible health plans. Newly-diagnosed patients with chronic conditions look online for information to sort out whether a generic drug is equivalent to a branded Rx that costs five-times the out-of-pocket cost of the cheaper substitute. While health care report cards have been around for many years, consumers’ need to get their arms around relevant and accessible information on quality and value is driving a new market for a Yelp, Travelocity, or Zagat in

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The value of big data in health care = $450 billion

  Exploiting Big Data in industry is Big News these days, and nowhere is the potential for leveraging the concept greater than in health care. McKinsey & Company estimates that harnessing big data across five dimensions of health care could yield nearly one-half trillion dollars’ worth of value in The ‘big data’ revolution in healthcare. The chart summarizes McKinsey’s calculations on the value of Big Data in health care at its maximum. Before digging into the value potential, just what is Big Data in health care? Statistics and information are generated in the health care system about patients: say, during visits

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The Rationale for CVS “Sticking” (vs. “Carroting”) It To Employees for Wellness

The Boston Herald was one of the first newspapers talking about CVS requiring workers to disclose personal health information…”or pay a $600 a year fine,” as the LA Times succinctly put the situation. The story is that CVS Caremark, the pharmacy and Rx benefits management company, is implementing a health screening program to measure height, weight, body fat, and blood pressure. These metrics are commonly collected in the process known as health risk appraisals (HRAs), which most large employers have begun to implement to help employees prevent the onset of chronic disease (think: “metabolic syndrome,” diabetes combined with overweight, for

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Most consumers will look to health insurance exchanges to buy individual plans in 2013

  As the Affordable Care Act, health reform, aka Obamacare, rolls out in 2013, American health insurance shoppers will look for sources of information they can trust on health plan quality and customer service satisfaction — as they do for automobiles, mobile phone plans, and washing machines. For many years, one of a handful of trusted sources for such insights has been J.D. Power and Associates. J.D. Power released its 2013 Member Health Plan Study (the seventh annual survey) and found that most consumers currently enrolled in a health plan have had a choice of only “one” at the time

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The lights are still out on health prices for Americans – #healthcost transparency limits consumerism in health

Only two U.S. states have comprehensive health care price transparency regulations that ensure citizens’ access to clear and open health price information. While those two states, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, earn an “A” in the Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws, an addition five state earn a “B,” with the remainder of the United States garnering a “C” or less. The map illustrates that most states are red states, earning the lowest score of “F.” With the growth of high-deductible health plans (under the umbrella of so-called “consumer-directed” plans) where health consumers pay thousands of dollars to meet a spending

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Bill Clinton’s public health, cost-bending message thrills health IT folks at HIMSS

In 2010, the folks who supported health care reform were massacred by the polls, Bill Clinton told a rapt audience of thousands at HIMSS13 yesterday. In 2012, the folks who were against health care reform were similarly rejected. President Clinton gave the keynote speech at the annual HIMSS conference on March 6, 2013, and by the spillover, standing-room-only crowd in the largest hall at the New Orleans Convention Center, Clinton was a rock star. Proof: with still nearly an hour to go before his 1 pm speech, the auditorium was already full with only a few seats left in the

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The future of sensors in health care – passive, designed, integrated

Here’s Ann R., who is a patient in the not-too-distance-future, when passive sensors will be embedded in her everyday life. The infographic illustrates a disruption in health care for people, where data are collected on us (with our permission) that can help us improve our own self-care, and help our clinicians know more about us outside of their offices, exam rooms and institutions. In Making Sense of Sensors: How New Technologies Can Change Patient Care, my paper for the California HealthCare Foundation, I set out to organize the many types of sensors proliferating the health care landscape, and identify key

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The Accountable Care Community opportunity

“ACOs most assuredly will not…deliver the disruptive innovation that the U.S. health-care system urgently needs,” wrote Clay Christensen, godfather of disruptive innovation, et. al., in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal of February18, 2013. In the opinion piece, Christensen and colleagues make the argument that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as initially conceived won’t address several key underlying forces that keep the U.S. health care industry in stasis: Physicians’ behavior will have to change to drive cost-reduction. Clinicians will need “re-education,” the authors say, adopting evidence-based medicine and operating in lower-cost milieus. Patients’ behavior will have to change. This requires

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Health cost transparency on the W-2: sticker shock at the point-of-paystub

If you receive health insurance benefits from your employer, you’ll see a new line item on your W-2, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service: the cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage. This new piece of data, shown in Box 12, DD information, comes as part of health reform, The Affordable Care Act, which requires employers with over 250 workers to show how much they spend on employer-sponsored health benefits in total. This is the employer’s premium cost, and does not include the covered worker’s out-of-pocket spending (e.g., copays, coinsurance and deductibles). It is being furnished on W-2’s “for informational

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The flu shot economy

4 in 10 Americans got flu shots in this epidemic season, and most of these didn’t receive their immunization in their doctor’s office. The Flu Vaccination Survey from Ipsos Public Affairs, conducted in January 2013, paints a picture of U.S. health consumers who are project managing their personal approaches to preventing the flu in this historically hard-hitting flu season. The most expressed demand for flu shots has been among people 55 and over, one-half of whom have received vaccinations, with the lowest use been in the 25-35 year age group. Geographically, the most covered health citizens live in New England

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Health reform, costs and the growing role of consumers: PwC’s tea leaves for 2013

PwC has seen the future of health care for the next year, and the crystal ball expects to see the following: Affordable Care Act implementation, with states playing lead roles The role of dual eligibles Employer’s role in health care benefits Consumers’ role in coverage Consumers’ ratings impact on health care Transforming health delivery Population health management Bring your own device Pharma’s changing value proposition The medical device industry & tax impact. In their report, Top health industry issues of 2013: picking up the pace on health reform, PwC summarizes these expectations as a “future [that] includes full implementation of

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Retail and work-site clinics – medical homes for younger adults?

The use of retail and work-site health clinics is up, and their consumers skew young. Overall, 27% of all U.S. adults have stepped into a walk-in clinic in the past two years. But only 15% of people 65 and over have used such a clinic. This begs the question: are retail and on-site clinics at the workplace filling the role of medical homes for younger adult Americans? The Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll published in January 2013 discovered that use of retail clinics grew from 7% in 2008 to 27% in 2012. The largest age cohort using walk-in clinics is people between

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We are all health deputies in the #digitalhealth era: live from the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show

Reed Tuckson of UnitedHealthGroup was the first panelist to speak at the kickoff of the Digital Health Summit, the fastest-growing aspct of the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (#2013CES). Tuckson implored the spillover audience to all, “self-deputize as national service agents in health,” recognizing that technology developers in the room at this show that’s focused on developers building Shiny New Digital Things have much to bring to health. As Andrew Thompson of Proteus Medical (the “invisible pill” company) said, “we can’t bend the health care cost curve; we have to break it.” This pioneering panel was all about offering new-new technologies

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Cost-conscious health consumers are adopting personal health IT

People enrolled in consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) are more cost-conscious than those enrolled in more traditional plans, according to Findings from the 2012 EBRI/MGA Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), published in December 2012. The logic behind CDHPs and HDHPs is that if health plan enrollees have more “skin in the game” — that is, personal financial exposure — they’ll behave more like health “consumers.” By 2012, 36% of employers with over 500 employees offered either HRA- or HSA-eligible plans. About 15% of working age adults are enrolled

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Employers slow health cost increases for 2013 by growing consumer-directed plans

Health benefit costs grew a relatively low 4.1% in 2012 (5.4% for large employers), largely due to companies moving workers into lower-cost consumer-directed health plans. Last year, benefit costs grew at an annual rate of 6.1%, representing about a 30% fall in year-on-year cost growth for companies. And, coverage is up to 59% of employees having ticked down to 55% for the past couple of years. Employers expect about a 5% increase for 2013. Mercer’s National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans analysis finds that U.S. employers are looking toward 2014, when they’ll be covering more uninsured workers, and using this advance

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Another call for transparency in health care from employers and unions for consumers

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there are strange bedfellows coming together this week. First strange bedfellow moment for me this week was the video of Governor Chris Christie and President Barak Obama embracing and working together in storm-turn New Jersey yesterday. Saints be praised! to see a Republican and Democrat coming together, working together, consoling citizens together. In health care this week, another welcome strange bedfellow event is the statement issued by Catalyst for Payment Reform (CPR), an advocacy group of business, labor unions (notably, the AFL-CIO), and consumer advocates promoting broadly available information for consumers about the price and quality

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Small business says stress is the #1 wellness need for employees

Nearly 50% of business start-ups view health and wellness as crucial to employee recruitment and retention. 31% of start-ups under 10 years of age have adopted wellness programs. Furthermore, 3 in 4 small companies that offer wellness programs say they positively impact the businesses’ bottom-lines. Nonetheless, more than one-half of small business — companies with fewer than 100 employees — say that there isn’t enough information available that focuses squarely on wellness in small business. These findings come from Workplace Wellness Programs in Small Business: Impacting the Bottom Line, a report from the National Small Business Association (NSBA) and Humana, details findings

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In sickness and in health: consumers expect doctors to be wellness coaches, too

4 in 5 health consumers expect doctors not only to treat them when they’re sick, but to keep them healthy. “In sickness and in health” now morphs over to the doctor-patient relationship, beyond the marriage vow. Better Health through Better Patient Communications, a survey from Varolii, finds that people are looking for health, beyond health care, from their physicians. Varolii is a customer interaction company that claims to have interacted with 1 in 3 Americans through some sort of company communication: they work with major Fortune 1000 companies, including banks, airlines, retail, and, yes, health care. They recently attracted  a

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Employers grow onsite health clinics, and employer-sponsored telemedicine will grow

With “Zero” large employers expecting to drop health insurance, as reported in the Washington Post, companies are getting creative and innovative about how to manage workers’ health and wellness, while addressing ever-growing costs. One strategy that’s getting more traction is the re-invention of the onsite health center. Towers Watson‘s 2012 Onsite Health Center survey report, finds that one-half of employers view establishing an onsite health center as a linchpin to enhancing productivity and health in the workplace. Following close behind productivity is the onsite health center’s promise of reducing medical costs, improving access to care, and the traditional reason for providing onsite

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Wellness takes hold among large employers – and more sticks nudge workers toward health

Employee benefits make up one-third of employers’ investments in workers, and companies are looking for positive ROI on that spend. Health benefits are the largest component of that spending, and are a major cost-management focus. In 2012 and beyond, wellness is taking center stage as part of employers’ total benefits strategies. In the 2012 Wellness & Benefits Administration Benchmarking study, a new report from bswift, a benefits administration company, the vast majority of large employers (defined as those with over 500 workers) are sponsoring wellness programs, extending them to dependents as well as active workers. Increasingly, sticks accompany carrots for

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Employees will bear more health costs to 2017 – certainty in an uncertain future

Amidst uncertainties and wild cards about health care’s future in the U.S., there’s one certainty forecasters and marketers should incorporate into their scenarios: consumers will bear more costs and more responsibility for decision making. The 2012 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Employers finds them, mostly, planning to subsidize health benefits for workers over the next few years, while placing greater financial and clinical burdens on the insured and moving more quickly toward high-deductible health plans and consumer-directed plans. In addition, wellness, prevention and targeted population health programs will be adopted by most employers staying in the health care game, shown in

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Why we now need primary care, everywhere

With the stunning Supreme Court 5-4 majority decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), there’s a Roberts’ Rules of (Health Reform) Order that calls for liberating primary care beyond the doctors’ office. That’s because a strategic underpinning of the ACA is akin to President Herbert Hoover’s proverbial “chicken in every pot:” for President Obama, the pronouncement is something like, “a medical home for every American.” But insurance for all doesn’t equate to access: because 32-some million U.S. health citizens buy into health insurance plans doesn’t guarantee every one of them access to a doctor. There’s a

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58% of Americans self-rationing health care due to cost

Since the advent of the Great Recession of 2008, more Americans have been splitting pills, postponing needed visits to doctors, skipping dental care, and avoiding recommended medical tests due to the cost of those health care services. Call it health care self-rationing: the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has been tracking this trend for the past several years, and the proportion of American adults rationing health demand is up to 58%. This KFF Health Tracking Poll interviewed 1,218 U.S. adults age 18 and older via landline and cell phone in May 2012. As the chart illustrates, 38% of people are “DIYing” health care

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The Online Couch: how “safe Skyping” is changing the relationship for patients and therapists

Skype and videoconferencing have surpassed the tipping point of consumer adoption. Grandparents Skype with grandchildren living far, far away. Soldiers converse daily with families from Afghanistan and Iraq war theatres. Workers streamline telecommuting by videoconferencing with colleagues in geographically distributed offices. In the era of DIY’ing all aspects of life, more health citizens are taking to DIY’ing health — and, increasingly, looking beyond physical health for convenient access to mental and behavioral health services. The Online Couch: Mental Health Care on the Web is my latest paper for the California HealthCare Foundation. Among a range of emerging tech-enabled mental health

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The Age of Value in Health Care

The idea of value-based purchasing in health care has been around since the 1990s, when 3 researchers named Meyer, Rybowski and Eichler wrote, “The concept of value-based health care purchasing is that buyers should hold providers of health care accountable for both cost and quality of care. Value-based purchasing brings together information on the quality of health care, including patient outcomes and health status, with data on the dollar outlays going towards health. It focuses on managing the use of the health care system to reduce inappropriate care and to identify and reward the best-performing providers. This strategy can be

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Investments in wellness will grow in 2013, but social health still a novelty for employers

  One-third of employers will increase investments in wellness programs in 2013. Employers look to these programs to reduce health care costs, to create a culture of health, to improve workforce productivity, and to enhance employee engagement. Workers say wellness programs are important in their choice of employer. But while employers and employee chasm agree on that point, there’s a gap between how employers see the programs’ benefits, and how aware (or unaware) employees are. Call this a Wellness Literacy Gap, akin to health literacy and health plan literacy. Over one-half of employers believe employees understand the programs they offer,

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Health costs will increase in 2013, and employees will bear more: can wellness programs help stem the rise?

Health spending will increase by 7.5% in 2013, with employees’ contributions rising for in-network deductibles, prescription drugs and emergency room visits. 3 in 4 employers, seeking to control rising health expenses, will offer wellness programs, even though a vast majority can’t yet measure an ROI on them. The Health and Well-Being: Touchstone Survey Results from PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC). PwC points out that the 7.5% medical cost increase is historically lower than in recent years, as a result of structural changes in the health care market including: A sluggish economy Growing focus on cost containment Lower utilization of health services by patients Employers’ efforts

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The pharmaceutical landscape for 2012 and beyond: balancing cost with care, and incentives for health behaviors

Transparency, data-based pharmacy decisions, incentivizing patient behavior, and outcomes-based payments will reshape the environment for marketing pharmaceutical drugs in and beyond 2012. Two reports published this week, from Express Scripts–Medco and PwC, explain these forces, which will severely challenge Pharma’s mood of market ennui. Express-Scripts Medco’s report on 9 Leading Trends in Rx Plan Management presents findings from a survey of 318 pharmacy benefit decision makers in public and private sector organizations. About one-half of the respondents represented smaller organizations with fewer than 5,000 employees; about 20% represented jumbo companies with over 25,000 workers. The survey was conducted in the

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Employers who offer more flexibility yield healthier workforces

The most flexible workplaces are good for worker’s health: they yield the most engaged workforces, greater job satisfaction, increased commitment to the firm, better mental health and lower indicators of depression. But not all firms are all that flexible, which is the top line of the Family and Work Institute‘s 2012 National Study of Employers (NSE), funded by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. What makes this survey different from others polling employers is that the NSE looks at the comprehensive array of total benefits offered to employees and their changing needs in terms of family, finance, and social lives. In the past seven years,

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Your doctor’s appointment on your phone: out of beta and into your pocket

You can now carry a doctor with you in your pocket. Two top telehealth companies that support online physician-patient visits have gone mobile. This upgrade was announced this week at the 2012 American Telemedicine Association conference, being held in San Jose, CA. In enabling mobile physician visits, American Well and Consult A Doctor join Myca, which has offered mobile phone-based visits for clients for at least two years to employer clinic customers. In April 2010, my report, How Smartphones Are Changing Healthcare for Consumers and Providers, talked about Myca’s work with Qualcomm: the telecomms company armed traveling employees with mobile phones that could connect

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The decline and potential renaissance of employer-sponsored health benefits: EBRI and MetLife reports tell the story

Two reports this week suggest countervailing trends for employer-sponsored health benefits: the erosion of the health benefit among companies, and opportunities for those progressive employers who choose to stay in the health benefit game. In 2010, nearly 50% of workers under 65 years of age worked for firms that did not offer health benefits. The uber-trend, first, is that the percentage of workers covered by employer-sponsored health insurance has declined since 2002. Workers offered the option of buying into a health benefit, as well as the percent covered by a health plan, have both fallen, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), an organization that

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Wellness Ignited! Edelman panel talks about how to build a health culture in the U.S.

Dr. Andrew Weil, the iconic guru of all-things-health, was joined by a panel of health stakeholders at this morning’s Edelman salon discussing Wellness Ignited – Now and Next. Representatives from the American Heart Association, Columbia University, Walgreens, Google, Harvard Business School, and urban media mavens Quincy Jones III and Shawn Ullman, who lead Feel Rich, a health media organization, were joined by Nancy Turett, Edelman’s Chief Strategist of Health & Society, in the mix. Each participant offered a statement about what they do related to health and wellness, encapsulating a trend identified by Jennifer Pfahler, EVP of Edelman. Trend 1: Integrative

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