3 2014 Trends for Health Plans

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
This post was written by Jessica Fornarotto

Influencing primary care, aggregating and mining data, and embracing bundled or episode-based payments are three trends that will influence health plans in 2014, predicts Catherine Sreckovich, managing director in the healthcare practice at Navigant Consulting.

HIN interviewed Sreckovich on these trends prior to her presentation during HIN’s tenth annual webinar on Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2014: A Strategic Planning Session.

HIN: Where will data analytics take health plans in the coming year, and how will this shape population health management offerings?

(Catherine Sreckovich): We’re certainly hearing a lot about big data, and it will be an integral approach to merging this practice’s or population’s health, the ability to aggregate and mine data is going to be an essential capability for health plans for their predictive models. And the outputs of these models are going to enable the health plans to identify and stratify their members or population health. Member and patient demographics can also inform consumer engagement strategies to support population health. And the analytics are going to inform the effectiveness of different care management interventions and consumer engagement strategies.

HIN: Health plan case managers embedded alongside providers has become almost a de facto model. How will payors influence primary care delivery in the year to come?

(Catherine Sreckovich): There is a number of approaches evolving right now and that will continue to evolve as payors attempt to influence primary care delivery. One is the use of patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) and other integrated models to expand the payor’s role as the primary care case manager.

In addition to paying primary care providers to hire case managers and care coordinators, payors are pushing for shared savings arrangements with these primary care providers, such as within an accountable care organization (ACO), and to push them to manage the care for those with chronic conditions.

We’re also seeing payors paying for primary care physicians to become certified PCMHs and to implement electronic health records (EHRs), either by paying directly for the certification of the technology or by adding bonus payments to their FFS rates.

Payors are also paying for incentives for primary care physicians to offer wellness programs such as smoking cessation or weight loss programs and are trying very hard to influence where and to whom primary care physicians refer their patients by giving them information about the cost and quality of other provider types, such as specialists and hospitals.

And we will continue to see that payors will target the larger primary care physician practices with whom they have a critical mass of members to achieve enough savings to offset the added costs of incentives, bonuses and shared savings arrangements. As a result, we expect that some of the smaller primary care practices will likely not receive the same level of support and push from payors.

In another example, we see payors increasingly partnering with non-traditional providers, such as retail-based clinics and community health centers to offer easily accessible primary care at lower costs. And this will certainly be an opportunity to address some of the physician supply shortages that we anticipate seeing in the next year or so as more and more people have access to healthcare insurance and coverage.

Finally, another approach payors are using is to offer members access to virtual doctor visits via webcam, for example, and other telemedicine approaches that are giving individuals access to these primary care providers to increase access to convenient and low cost primary care for their patients.

HIN: CMS and top-performing Pioneer ACOs are heavily invested in bundled or episode-based payments. Will more private payors embrace this reimbursement method as well?

(Catherine Sreckovich): Definitely. The bundled or episodic-based payment approaches are here to stay. We’re starting to see this take off in a number of states. For example, there are state innovation grants that CMS has provided to states like Arkansas, Ohio, Delaware and others looking for opportunities to implement multi-payor bundled payment initiatives. Although these are not necessarily the traditional ACO model, they built off of that ACO model.

We also see that the large health plans in various states are starting to build and develop ACOs. Key to these are the shared savings arrangements that they’re implementing with these payment approaches. So whether they’re bundled or episodic-based payments or whether they look more like a traditional ACO, if there is such a thing, we’re starting to see takeoffs on those kinds of models as payors and health plans become more creative in the development of their alternatives.

Excerpted from: Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2014: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry

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