As Some Companies Turn to Health Exchanges, G.E. Seeks a New Path

Some major firms, like Walgreen, the drugstore chain, are giving those who qualify money to buy insurance on a private health exchange. In Cincinnati, General Electric is taking the opposite approach to reining in health care costs

One of the largest employers in the nation, it spends more than $2 billion a year offering coverage to 500,000 employees and retirees and their families. And it is using its considerable clout in places like this — where its giant aviation business gives it a major presence — to work directly with doctors and hospitals to improve care and reduce costs.

Over the last few years, G.E. has pushed for the creation of so-called medical homes, in which an individual medical practice closely coordinates a patient’s care by having access to all of the patient’s medical records.

In Cincinnati, about 118 doctors’ practices have converted to medical homes, and all five of the major health systems are making their primary care practices move in that direction. G.E. has also pushed for greater transparency of results.

See the full story at NewYorkTiems.com.

 

 

Why Qualcomm Is Betting on Wireless Health

Qualcomm Life, launched two years ago as a division of the San Diego–based telecommunications giant Qualcomm, is building software and protocols that could bring some order to the chaos of health data. Its first product, called the 2Net Platform, is a system for getting wireless data off those devices and onto the Internet servers of clients, like health device makers or hospitals.

About half of American adults have some kind of chronic condition, including obesity, arthritis, or diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wireless devices could let more of their health care happen at home. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report this year estimated that mobile health technology could help save developed countries $400 billion by 2017.

See the full story at Technology Review.com

Consumer Reports Releases Annual Health Insurance Plan Rankings – Including 114 “Best Value” Plans

YONKERS, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — For the fourth year in a row, Consumer Reports published rankings of hundreds of health insurance plans across the United States to help consumers determine which ones may be best for them. This marks the first time the organization took additional steps to identify plans that both provide high-quality care and avoid costly care.

“Consumer Reports’ analysis found that expensive care doesn’t mean better care. Many people incorrectly assume that the more money that’s spent on health care, the better health care will be,” said John Santa, M.D., medical director of Consumer Reports Health. “But as these ratings show, the data found no connection between cost and quality.”

The full report is available in the November issue of Consumer Reports. The latest health plan rankings are available for free online at www.ConsumerReports.org/healthinsurance.

 

eHealth Signs Agreement With Intuit to Simplify Health Insurance Enrollment

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA–(Marketwired – Sep 24, 2013) –  eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH), the nation’s leading private online health insurance exchange for individual and family health insurance, today announced that it has entered into a relationship with Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ:INTU) in an effort to expand consumer enrollment in individual and family health insurance plans.

Through the planned integration with Intuit TurboTax®, many of the more than 25 million people projected to use TurboTax will be able to more easily explore their health insurance options using eHealth’s online health insurance marketplace. In addition to major medical coverage, TurboTax users may also be able to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement plans and stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans.

See the full story at MarketWired.com

 

More Large Companies Opt To Drop ‘Bare-Bones’ Health Plans

A growing number of large employers are choosing to stop offering their so-called bare-bones or “mini-med” health plans — which typically provide basic, minimum coverage — rather than upgrading the plans to be compliant with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements, the Wall Street Journal reports.

More than 1,200 employers offer such minimum-coverage plans, which must be phased out by Jan. 1. An estimated four million workers are enrolled in the low-cost plans, which are common in low-wage industries and typically limit total benefits to as little as $3,000 a year.

According to the Journal, many companies are opting to shift hundreds — or in some instances, thousands — of employees into private health insurance exchanges or the public marketplaces created under the ACA.

See the full story at CaliforniaHealthLine.org

 

Consumer Groups Criticize Anthem’s Narrow Network In Missouri’s Obamacare Marketplace

Patient advocates say the exclusion of one of Missouri’s top hospital systems from policies offered by the region’s biggest insurer under the Affordable Care Act could hinder treatment for some patients and force others to switch doctors.

The network for the Anthem BlueCross BlueShield plans, which will be sold through Missouri’s “Obamacare” marketplace, does not include BJC HealthCare and its 13 hospitals — among them Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the area’s premier academic medical center, and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

See the full story at KaiserHealthNews.com

 

Sprint Forms Mobile Health Care Business Accelerator

Sprint Corp. has launched a business startup program in Kansas City with Techstars, the same partner that Microsoft brought to Seattle and Nike to Portland, Ore.

Techstars, based in Boulder, Colo., has worked with more than 300 young companies through 11 business accelerator programs like the one Sprint announced Tuesday.

Together, they hope to tap into and expand the Kansas City area’s entrepreneurial surge and expertise in life sciences through the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator.
See the full story at KansasCity.com

Humana Seeking New Tools & Technologies To Move Beyond “sick care” Business Model

How does a corporate behemoth heavily invested in the transaction-based health care system of today make the shift to engaging with its 20 million+ customers about their health in new and deeper ways? Humana’s new CEO Bruce Broussard sees technology as key to successfully meeting this challenge.

See the full story at TheHealthcareBlog.com

 

Blue Cross And Blue Shield Of North Carolina Works With Inovalon to Identify and Close Gaps in Clinical Outcomes

BOWIE, Md. – September 24, 2013 – Inovalon, Inc., a leading provider of data-driven healthcare solutions, today announced that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), a leader in delivering innovative healthcare products, services, and information to more than 3.7 million members, has selected Inovalon’s Prospective Advantage® and INDICES™ solutions in a multi-year engagement, providing an integrated solution for identifying and closing gaps in care, quality, assessment, and documentation.

Inovalon’s integrated solutions will aid BCBSNC in identifying gaps between current and desired states of clinical and quality outcomes, risk score accuracy, and care management. Leveraging insight from more than 6.5 billion medical events residing within Inovalon’s Medical Outcomes Research for Effectiveness and Economics (MORE2) Registry® data warehouse, the integrated platform identifies which gaps hold promise and undertakes highly patient-specific and provider-specific interventions to achieve meaningful benefits in a predictable and valuable fashion.

See the full story at Inovalon.com

 

Aetna and Sharp HealthCare Expand Accountable Care

SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Aetna announced an accountable care collaboration and the introduction of Aetna Whole HealthSM, a new commercial health care product that provides members access to highly coordinated care from physicians and facilities in the Sharp HealthCare system. The new product, effective February 1, will be available to self-insured and fully insured businesses with greater than 100 employees who reside in San Diego County.

An accountable care collaboration is a group of health care providers who assume responsibility for the quality and cost of care for a group of patients. Aetna members will receive an enhanced level of coordinated care in addition to the member benefits of their current Aetna plan.

See the full story at Aetna.com