Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Launches “MI Blue” Skill for Amazon Alexa

DETROIT, May 29, 2018 – Wellness information, one-minute meditations, general information about health insurance, healthy recipes and more are now available for free to all Michigan residents with an Alexa-enabled device thanks to the new “MI Blue” skill from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Pronounced “my blue,” the skill allows users to obtain comprehensive, interactive health care and wellness information within minutes using voice commands through an Alexa-enabled device.

“We are always seeking ways to connect people in Michigan with better health,” said Daniel J. Loepp, Blue Cross president and CEO. “We worked with Amazon to give people everywhere in Michigan the chance to leverage Amazon’s voice service to live healthier and connect with reliable information from Blue Cross.”

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Heritage Foundation says Obamacare Cost Sharing is Too High, Even for HSAs

Edmund Haislmaier, a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation has published a paper in which he states, “over half of all plan designs offered on in 2018 have out-of-pocket maximums that are too high for the plan to qualify as HSA-compatible.”
Haislmaier notes that “Obamacare plans continue to raise costs on patients in the form of higher deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and premiums.” However, he says while “Congress created health savings accounts (HSAs) to help patients save tax-free dollars for health expenses—but most Obamacare plans do not allow for that option.”
Congress, according to Haislmaier,  needs to “make it easier to use HSAs, and address Obamacare’s damage to the private market, which would help lower costs and expand choices.”

Self-Insurance Is Just the Start, Say Health Plan Innovators

From SHRM:

Stephen Miller, CEBS writes in SHRM that health plan trendsetters speaking at panel discussions at the recent 2018 World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C. say that “employers are not being bold enough with their self-insurance strategies.”

Miller writes, “A change that the experts wanted to see is greater price transparency for health care services.”

“Any CEO in the country can quickly look up what they pay for paper clips, but when you ask the same question about a back surgery, they don’t know the cost,” said Lee Lewis, innovative practice lead at benefits broker Arthur J. Gallagher. “There are about 350 procedures that make up 90 percent-plus of all the health care dollars we spend. It’s not that hard to figure out the cost of 350 things” and then use plan incentives to encourage enrollees to select high-quality, cost-effective providers.

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Ideas to Make Health Care Affordable Again

Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) has published a white paper called “Ideas to Make Health Care Affordable Again.” In the paper, Cassidy notes that “more Americans are concerned about health care costs (85%) than are concerned about other common worries like retirement (73%), housing (66%), and child care (49%).” He states that everyone agrees that the top health care priority should be lowering health care costs.

Cassidy urges members of Congress to take commonsense actions to lower health care costs by focusing on six policy areas: I. Empowering patients to reduce their health care costs II. Lowering health insurance premiums III. Ending health care monopolies by increasing competition IV. Decreasing drug costs for patients V. Eliminating administrative burdens and costs VI. Reducing costs through primary care, prevention, and chronic disease management.

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Lessons from Auto Insurance for Health Insurance

From BenefitsPro:

Sally Poblete at BenefitsPro lists three lessons health insurance incumbents can learn from the auto insurance industry to better meet customer expectations, boost sales, and ensure long-term competitiveness. Read more.

Expensive New Cancer Drugs Drive Explosive Spending Growth

From Business Insider:

Charlotte Hu is reporting in Business Insider that a new study released by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science states that, In the US alone, spending on cancer medicine doubled over the last five years from $25 billion to $50 billion.

The median annual cost of a cancer drug launched in 2017 exceeded $150,000. Read more.


HSA Bank Health & Wealth Index Reveals where Americans Stand with their Physical and Financial Well-being

HSA Bank, a division of Webster Bank, N.A., released the HSA Bank Health & Wealth IndexSM for 2018, a new report that explores how today’s consumers are faring when it comes to their financial and physical health. More than 1,000 U.S. adults were surveyed about their health plan enrollment status, health practices, ability to pay for health-related expenses, and level of engagement in their own health and wealth. The results showed that 41 percent never save money for future healthcare expenses and 35 percent never consider cost when selecting health services.

Key findings from the report show that although consumers are paying attention to their physical health and engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors, opportunities exist for employers, benefit administrators, and healthcare providers to further educate consumers on the various factors that play a critical role in influencing physical and financial health.

1. Consumers can improve their focus on the financial aspect of healthcare.
2. Consumer confidence in health plan coverage does not align with their financial literacy of health plans.
3. Consumers are making lifestyle changes to improve their health.

To view the full report, visit

Building a Next-Generation Platform for Care at Home

CareCentrix has published a new whitepaper outlining how home-centered care drives significant savings, promotes recovery, and increases patient satisfaction. Unfortunately, according to the paper, home care remains underused due to barriers that are structurally embedded into the healthcare system.

The white paper, “Building a Next-Generation Platform for Care at Home” explores what it would take for the home to become the center of patient care.

The paper concludes that health plans need to take a closer look at how implementing a robust home health benefit that includes telehealth and value-add services (such as transportation and personal care) can reduce upfront costs as well as help limit downstream costs from hospital readmissions, repeat surgeries, and other complications.

Download a copy here.

Americans’ Health Care Costs Rise Again, Now $28k per Family

From BenefitsPro

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is reporting in BenefitsPro that the cost of health care for a typical American family of four receiving coverage from an employer-sponsored preferred provider plan will rise by just 4.5 percent this year. This is according to the 2018 Milliman Medical Index.

The article notes that the index also found that prescription drug trends are down for the third consecutive year. However, while employers are paying more, employees are paying a lot more. Over the long-term, Milliman had seen employees footing an increasingly higher percentage of the total. That trend continues in 2018, with employee expenses increasing by 5.9 percent, while employer expenses increased by only 3.5 percent.

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Value-based Health Care Explalined

From EBA

Sam Ho, the chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, describes value-based care arrangements in an EBA article.

Under value-based care arrangements, healthcare providers are paid for achieving certain quality outcomes and demonstrating that they’re improving people’s health, rather than getting paid solely for the number of services they provide to patients.

 In short, value-based care puts the patient at the center of the healthcare experience. It emphasizes the importance of keeping people healthy and rewards physicians for coordinating care.