A week on the road ends today – if flights are on time and the weather gods are merciful. Here’s what I missed while sitting on planes and in airports…
This week marked the 103rd anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, the tragedy that led to major changes in employment law, drove adoption of workers’ compensation coverage, and focused the nation’s attention on abusive employers – here in the US. The rest of the world has a long way to go, as we’ve seen. There’s a very good, and very graphic, video here that shows the rest of the world needs their own drastic changes in employment law and policy. What happened 103 years ago in New York happens far too frequently today – just not here.
With the witching hour fast approaching, it looks like the PPACA rollout will end up with somewhat more than 6 million enrolled, most taking advantage of a subsidy or covered thru Medicaid. Before we all start declaring victory or pronouncing defeat, let’s just sit back and realize we won’t know if PPACA’s goals of reducing cost, improving outcomes, and covering many more Americans will be realized for at least a few years…
Saw an item in Insurance Thought Leadership by one Al Lewis claiming that wellness is a fraud, an” industry conceived in lies, retractions, and hypocrisy.” Lewis doesn’t suffer from a lack of ego; he claims, among other things, to be “widely credited as” the inventor of disease management (now that’s a ballsy assertion). Lewis’ assertions about wellness are similar; simplistic to the point of being misleading.
Fact is, the wellness story is much more nuanced, more complex, and while there are certainly misstatements and over-the-top claims (akin to naming oneself the “inventor of disease management), there is ample evidence that properly conceived and implemented programs can and do have measurable, positive effects on individuals’ health status and health costs. A RAND study reported:
- We found statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements among program participants in exercise frequency, smoking behavior, and weight control, but not cholesterol control.
- Participation in a wellness program over five years is associated with lower health care costs and decreasing health care use. The average annual difference is an estimated $157, but the change is not statistically significant.
I’d note that almost all business decisions are made based on evidence that is not “statistically significant“, so don’t get caught up on that metric. More evidence of wellness programs’ effectiveness is here and here.
Back in the real world, a 12 month fix for the Medicare physician reimbursement mess known as SGR will happen before the end of the month. The House passed legislation yesterday, and word is the Senate will follow shortly. There’s a few other provisions in the bill that, among other things, reduce long term care reimbursement, delay ICD-10 rollout for another year, and cut Medicare payments to rural hospitals. These may or may not, end up in the final bill that gets signed into law. I’ll keep you posted.
This matters to workers comp as all states with doc fee schedules use Medicare as the basis (except IL). In only a couple states is there a “direct” linkage, but what Medicare does tends to eventually work its way into WC fee schedules, and, perhaps more importantly, affects physician behavior. A cut would motivate docs to shift costs to work comp…
Sticking with work comp, the rumors that Aetna will sell off its work comp subsidiary continue. As I’ve noted ad nauseum, that’s just not possible. Can they sell PBM First Script? Sure, and well they might. How about their case management and UR and IME and other “ancillary” business? Well, if anyone wants to buy it, perhaps. Bill review? no way – unless they do a renewal rights deal, as the current application is just not viable. That, and the fact that Aetna laid off most of the tech support staff indicates they may just let it fade away.
Which leaves the work comp PPO – the Coventry network. Word is Aetna execs have been trying to figure out how to sell it – except it isn’t “sell-able”, at least not for a price that would be anywhere close to the money they are making off the network today. As I said a couple years back;
if Aetna wanted to sell the WC business it is hard to see how it could transfer the network’s provider contracts to the new owner as most are a combined WC/group/governmental contract. Sure, Aetna could guarantee access to their contracts going forward for some period certain, but given Aetna’s history with workers comp, any buyer would be very reluctant to bet the future of their investment on that guarantee.
I do have first-hand knowledge of this; about 15 years ago UnitedHealthcare sold MetraComp’s WC network to NHR, which was then sold to Concentra. (I worked for then consulted for MetraComp) There was a deal in place wherein UHC was supposed to maintain the network contracts; didn’t happen. Discounts declined, the network shrunk, and the asset value diminished rather quickly.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t make sure you are going to Operation UNITE’s Prescription Rx Summit in Atlanta April 22 – 24. The Summit is focused on all aspects of the prescription drug abuse problem – the top problem in worker’s comp today.
Enjoy the weekend – hope your flowers are blooming!