Latest off the Walmart shelf: Health insurance

Bentonville, Arkansas-based superstore conglomerate Walmart Inc. has formed an insurance agency in Texas to sell Medicare policies, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The new subsidiary, Walmart Insurance Services LLC, is currently hiring people to peddle its products and services, the newspaper reported. Some jobs will be home-based; no word on whether they’ll get discounts on sweatpants and pajamas at Walmart. Read More: Business Insurance

Oscar Announces $225 Million in New Funding

Oscar, the first direct-to-consumer health insurance company, announced that it has closed a $225 million funding round. The round positions Oscar to continue growth off of a $2 billion revenue base and puts the company on a path to further advance its mission of making health care simple.

Oscar is the first health insurance company built to make health care easy. Headquartered in New York City, Oscar has been challenging the health care system’s status quo since our founding in 2012, developing seamless technology and providing personalized support to help our members navigate their health care. Oscar was the first insurer to offer free, 24/7 telemedicine to members and to integrate direct scheduling with providers through our app. Read More: PRNewsWire

How the CARES Act Could Shape Benefits Over the Coming Year

Coronavirus and the subsequent institutional reactions have had and will have a profound impact on the way businesses manage their employees. HR and benefits professionals need to make sure their people are adequately covered, and that they’re looking to a short and long term significantly influenced by COVID-19.

Specifically for consumer-directed health care (CDH), which we believe was trending up prior to the crisis, the CARES Act outlines eligibility for HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs to expense over-the-counter medicines and menstrual care products. This adds flexibility for the consumer and stretches the applications of insurance dollars. Read More: BenefitsPRO

Health Care Reforms and Innovations from 10 Countries

Health care reform continues to be a fiercely debated topic in the United States, primarily around the subject of single-payer vs. our current system. Several reforms and innovations have taken place in this country, from Medicare and Medicaid innovations to employers joining together to form their own nonprofit health care corporations. But how do American innovations measure up to the rest of the world?

The Commonwealth Fund, a private U.S. foundation that supports independent research on health care issues, has updated its International Profiles of Health Care Systems. The study delves into the systems of 20 countries, covering subjects from the organization and financing of health care to controlling costs and spending. Read More: BenefitsPRO

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Amazon Give Anthem Members Increased Access to Health Information to Enhance Their Healthcare Experience

Members of Anthem’s commercial Medical and Dental health plans can use Alexa-enabled devices to take actions such as order prescription refills and look up health plan information
As part of its commitment to offering members a digital-first healthcare experience – where, when, and how they want it, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Nevada (Anthem) introduced the enhanced Anthem Skill to members of its commercial Medical and Dental health plans, allowing them to order prescription refills as well as other health plan actions. Through an Alexa-enabled device, like an Amazon Echo, or the Alexa app on a phone, the Anthem Skill is a 24/7, voice-activated way for members to also quickly access some of their health and dental plan benefit information.
Anthem is one of the first health plans to offer access to specific health plan information through an Anthem Skill. After linking their account, customers can ask Alexa questions about some of their Anthem Medical and Dental health plan benefits, such as:
  • Health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) balance
  • Progress in meeting the plan’s deductible
  • Plan’s out-of-pocket maximum
  • Order identification card
  • Prescription refill, renew and check order status
  • Schedule, reschedule, and cancel a call back from member services Read More: Anthem

CMS: Value-Based Reimbursement Key to Addressing Health Disparities

Value-based reimbursement encourages clinicians to care for the whole person, which is essential to addressing health disparities demonstrated by claims data from the COVID-19 crisis, CMS says.

Health disparities proven by Medicare claims data during the COVID-19 crisis underscore the need to transition to value-based reimbursement, according to CMS.

“Now more than ever, it is clear that our fee-for-service system is insufficient for the most vulnerable Americans because it limits payment to what goes on inside a doctor’s office. The transition to a value-based system has never been so urgent,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in the announcement. Read More:

North Carolina Creates Nation’s First Statewide Infrastructure Connecting Healthcare and Human Services

Through a public-private partnership, North Carolina has created the nation’s first statewide technology platform, NCCARE360, to coordinate whole-person care uniting traditional healthcare settings and organizations that address non-medical drivers of health, such as food, housing, transportation, employment and interpersonal safety. NCCARE360 is now available in all 100 counties.

Now, anyone in North Carolina can request services and be connected to an accountable organization to support their immediate and long-term needs. NCCARE360 enables health and community-based organizations to make electronic referrals, communicate in real time, securely share client information, and track outcomes together.  Read More:


Walmart Ups Its Digital Health & Wellness Capabilities With $200M Purchase Of CareZone’s Technology

Walmart has reportedly paid some $200 million to buy key assets from CareZone, a Seattle-based health-technology start-up that promises to manage prescription drugs for each family member.

Launched 10 years ago, CareZone develops apps to help patients manage their medicines. It also built technology for users to scan insurance cards and prescription-drug labels, making it easier for users to determine what’s covered by their health plan or to organize a home delivery. CareZone told CNBC the apps have about 3.5 million members.

The deal also makes Walmart more competitive in the $500 billion prescription drug space after Amazon bought PillPack, a pharmacy delivery and medication management startup, in 2018 for $753 million. Walmart lost out on a chance to buy the company after Amazon’s bid came in higher. Read More:



Bravo Wellness buys Chicago Employee Wellness Program

Bravo Wellness has acquired Chicago-based Push Wellness as the two employee wellness program providers join forces.

Both companies focus on personalized, progress-based health improvement goals that are achievable and “materially rewarding” for participants, resulting in rates of engagement, risk reduction and customer retention that far exceed industry norms, Bravo said.

Bravo founder, President and CEO Jim Pshock said his company brings the financial strength of parent company Medical Mutual and health resources available through a partnership with Cleveland Clinic.

“Push’s sophisticated technology platform and talented team members will immediately enhance Bravo’s ability to meet or exceed customer demands,” Pshock said in a statement. “Now the addition of this powerful technology from Push, Bravo is poised to support many more people on their wellness journey while reducing risks and driving down costs for health plans, employers and employees alike.” Read More: Cleveland Business Journal

Coronavirus is Forcing the Insurance Industry to Embrace Digitization

t’s no secret that for years the insurance industry has lagged behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation. Only five years ago McKinsey ranked healthcare near the bottom in their Industry Digitization Index. Since 2015, major players in the healthcare and insurance industries have worked to improve their digitization efforts but still remained woefully behind.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The current crisis is rapidly highlighting just how well previous efforts to digitize were going. Companies who had already embraced a culture of digital innovation and had begun exploring, if not implementing, technology have already proven more successful during this sudden and dramatic shift.