Tag Archive: HMO

UnitedHeathcare’s Harken Health redefines the HMO in the age of Obamacare

AUSTELL, Ga. — UnitedHealthcare is betting $65 million that it can profit by making primary care more attractive.With little fanfare, the nation’s largest health insurer launched an independent subsidiary in January that offers unlimited free doctor visits and 24/7 access by phone. Every member gets a personal health coach to nudge them toward their goals, such as losing weight or exercising more. Mental health counseling also is provided, as are yoga, cooking, and acupuncture classes. Services are delivered in stylish clinics with hardwood floors and faux fireplaces in their lobbies. Harken Health is available only in Chicago and Atlanta, where it covers 35,000 members who signed up this winter on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. UnitedHealth still sells traditional plans in those cities, too.

Source: UnitedHealth wagers $65 million on ounce of primary-care prevention

This individual and small group health plan offering appears primarily aimed at boosting health literacy and appreciation for healthy lifestyles among those new to health insurance following the expansion of coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Since this cohort can be frequent users of care and who because they lack pre-existing provider relationships tend to rack up costly emergency room visits for non-emergent care, Harken Health aims to reach them — and reduce ER visits — by offering unlimited primary care visits without out of pocket costs.

An apparent goal here is that by improving health literacy of its members and instilling in them an appreciation for maintaining healthy lifestyles — key health determinants — Harken Health will build a long term relationship that will pay future dividends in avoided high cost care. It’s redefining the health maintenance organization for the Obamacare era.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Do You Speak Health Insurance? It’s Not Easy : Shots – Health News : NPR

“We’ve created a monster, and it’s not surprising to me that there’s literacy issues,” says Kathleen Call, a professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. “I’ve studied this stuff, and sometimes I make mistakes.”Call has grown increasingly concerned that the complexity of insurance could compromise public health by keeping people away from the doctor.”People are treating it more like car insurance: You don’t use it until something happens,” she says. “You have an accident, then you use it. Otherwise you’re trying not to use it. And that’s not the way we want health insurance to be used.”

Source: Do You Speak Health Insurance? It’s Not Easy : Shots – Health News : NPR

Call’s comment concerning people not wanting to use their health insurance coverage touches upon a deep philosophical split over what it should be in the Affordable Care Act era. In the age of the health maintenance organization that came about in the 1970s and 1980s, HMOs were a hybrid product consisting pre-paid primary care and protection for high cost care such as major accidents and medical events. Before the HMO, there was major medical coverage that covered only the latter with the patient paying out of pocket for the former.

Today, the United States is shifting back to pre-HMO days. Instead of major medical coverage as it was called in the 1950s and 1960s, we now have high deductible or consumer driven plans. With rising health care costs, the all inclusive HMO plans with little in the way of out of pocket costs are no longer feasible. The problem is people still remember these rich HMO plans of the recent past and see high deductible plans as a poor value by comparison — or even valueless as they were described in a recent New York Times story.

The NPR item featured here makes the case for a simplified high deductible policy resembling the major medical coverage of the past, with a flat deductible of say $2,500 and a 20 percent coinsurance level. And automatically health savings account compatible.

That would be a true insurance product since it would cover large, unexpected medical expenses. Since patients would be responsible for care costs incurred below the deductible, these plans would reduce health plan issuer administrative costs involved in processing reimbursements for lower cost care events and the burden of keeping practitioner directories updated. It also dovetails with the consumer trend of convenience-oriented primary care delivered at retail and employer-sponsored clinics, online and through pre-paid arrangements.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Ex-Obama advisers seek health care cost control – Yahoo! News

Under the proposal, the major public and private players in each state would negotiate payment rates with service providers such as hospitals. The idea is to get away from paying for each individual test and procedure. Negotiated rates could be based on an entire course of treatment. Payments would have to fit within an overall budget that could grow no faster than the average rise in wages.

The spending limits would be enforced by an independent council, but crucial details need to be spelled out. In Massachusetts, for example, budget-busting providers will be required to file plans with the state laying out how they’ll amend their spendthrift ways.

The federal government would provide grants to states interested in developing their plans.

Tanden joined a brain trust of former administration officials floating the proposal recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. The group included Peter Orszag (former budget director), John Podesta (transition director), Donald Berwick (first Medicare chief), Ezekiel Emanuel (Orszag’s health policy guru), and Joshua Sharfstein (former No. 2 at the Food and Drug Administration). Also on board was former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Obama’s first pick to shepherd his health care overhaul.

via Ex-Obama advisers seek health care cost control – Yahoo! News.

This item from the Associated Press dubs the initiative “Health Care Overhaul, Version 2.0,” with the goal of establishing a “first-ever budget for the nation’s $2.8-trillion health care system, through negotiated limits on public and private spending in each state.”

The proposal represents an expansion of the accountable care organization concept in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicare Shared Savings Program (Section 3022 of the PPACA) beyond Medicare to encompass private payments.  It is a government led market intervention designed to shift the business model and economics of the health care industry away from the current model that rewards the provision of discrete medical procedures to an all inclusive, coordinated system of care. 

Arguably, the existing health maintenance organization (HMO) is based on the same principle.  But that hasn’t bent the so-called cost curve. The difference here is that the power of government would be brought to bear to hold down costs such as in Massachusetts. The Bay State recently enacted legislation that among other things, subjects providers to cost growth benchmarks. Those providers exceeding the benchmarks must file and implement a performance-improvement plan, with potential penalty up to $500,000 for failure to comply.  The New England Journal of Medicine has more details on the Massachusetts law here.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

California leaning toward Kaiser Permanente’s small group HMO as individual and small group plan benchmark

California continues moving forward to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), advancing legislation this week setting minimum coverage standards for health plans offered by small employers and sold through the California Health Benefit Exchange.

Section 1302 of the PPACA delineates 10 “essential health benefits” small group and individual market plans must offer including ambulatory and emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

Since health insurance markets vary among the states and to speed state efforts to establish health benefit exchanges, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services late last year issued guidance allowing states to choose one of the following plans sold in their jurisdictions as a benchmark:

  • One of the three largest small group plans in the state;
  • One of the three largest state employee health plans;
  • One of the three largest federal employee health plan options;
  • The largest HMO plan offered in the state’s commercial market.

California advanced legislation this week, AB 1453, defining HMO Kaiser Permanente’s small group plan as of December 31, 2011 as the Golden State’s benchmark.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

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