It is a Matter of Time Before Every Health Plan Has a Rewards Program

Rewards for healthy behaviors have been growing at leaps and bounds as a way to reduce healthcare costs for several years. In 2009, employers offered employees $260 in rewards for making healthy choices. Now, companies are projecting to spend $693 per employee on wellness incentives. ObamaCare added fuel to the fire. It increased the allowable amount of rewards from 20 percent to 30 percent (and in the case of smoking cessation) 50 percent of annual premium. Forbes named “health rewards” as two of the top 5 health IT trends in 2014.“Incentive Driven Healthcare” is here to stay.

Why don’t health plans want consumers to know this? It seems like a win-win. Well in some ways they do. Health plans win by reducing costly behavior through prevention and lifestyle changes. Consumers benefit not only by getting healthier and making better health decisions, but by receiving rewards. This is all true. But in some ways they don’t. Once consumers realize that purchasing health insurance, while incredibly personal, is nothing more than purchasing another consumer product, the marketers of the world will be faced with a health rewards competition.

ObamaCare created “exchanges” or “marketplaces” through which health insurers compete for the business of individuals and businesses. These marketplaces were established with a series of pre-packaged health plan options, which limit the variations in using traditional levers such as coverage and networks. Health plans that were used to competing on these levers are left with a single lever – price. Selecting from gold, silver and bronze hardly creates differentiation among UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, Aetna, Humana, Wellpoint, the Blues and many other plans in the United States.

Think of your credit card, hotel, airline or favorite retailer. It is a sure fire way to create loyalty, brand affinity and engagement. Let’s be honest, you are more inclined to use specific services or retailers if they provide a robust rewards program. When marketers of consumer products ask themselves “what tools do I need to attract, retain, and generate loyal customers?” the answer inevitably comes to reward programs.

As further evidence, consumers across multiple demographics were interviewed on what they wanted from their health plan. The only item that appeared in every demographic was “rewards for healthy behavior.” Would you have a more positive opinion of your health plan if they sponsored a program that rewards consumers for healthy behaviors? According to a Welltok survey, 75  percent of respondents agree. Furthermore, 81 percent said that access to such a program positively influences their decision to renew with their current plan. Not to mention, the fact that incentives are a proven means to motivate health choices and change behaviors. More than 96 percent of consumers would engage in healthier behaviors if rewarded.

Health plans are entering a new competitive landscape. Rewards will not only be an essential component, but will also drive a healthier population – creating a win-win situation for all.


Dermer

Michael Dermer is the Chief Incentive Officer of Welltok. Prior to his current role, Michael was the founder and CEO of IncentOne, the first company that in 2003 identified incentives in healthcare as a critical solution to driving consumer and provider engagement.  Michael is considered one of the nation’s experts on rewards and incentives in healthcare –learned in running over 4,000 programs and 40 million transactions over ten years. His personal mission is a national reward program in which all Americans can “be healthy and be rewarded.” Since 2003, he has been guiding health plans, employers, health systems, governments and providers in how to use incentives to deliver cost reductions and health improvement.

Twitter: @rewardforhealth

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeldermer

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What Employers Want from ACOs for Better Population Health

When employers think about population health, they are thinking about the health of their workforce and their retirees. Employers want their workforce and their retirees to become and remain healthy. For large, self-funded employers this is about the bottom line and reducing health care costs, but more important than that, it’s about employee/retiree health outcomes, satisfaction and employee productivity.

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are one of the promising new models of health care delivery that seeks to deliver better quality care at lower costs. ACOs can be designed to improve the quality of care, increase patient satisfaction, and lower the cost of care by aligning incentives and connecting the care provided by hospitals, medical groups, and health plans to work together to decrease fragmented care. So what are large employers looking for from ACOs?

First and foremost, employers want an ACO to consider the care of “the whole person.” They recognize that not all ACOs are alike and that they have different capabilities.  They expect ACOs to meet all the care needs of their employees, including behavioral health. To do this, the ACO needs a wide variety of service providers that deliver a holistic menu of care. For example, if the patient has a psycho-social issue, the ACO should have a social worker who can address that issue. If the patient needs to lose weight to help with her diabetes, she should have access to a dietician to work on changing her eating habits.

Second, employers want their ACOs to offer integrated care. Fragmented care is not only challenging for patients to navigate– it is not clinically optimal.  Primary care providers, behavioral health providers, pharmacy staff and specialists should work together, share information with each other, and have shared incentives for the same goal: the patient’s best interest.

Employers also want their ACOs to be able to identify the highest-risk patients and target them for special intervention. The greatest savings come from identifying the sickest patients and keeping them out of the hospital. The ACO needs to be able to identify these individuals and intervene before episodes escalate out of control. Some early employers in this space have seen great success with this targeted intervention, which is now a vital component of both employer-driven and health plan-driven ACO products.

ACOs also need to be able to support“smart” benefit design features designed by employers to engage employees in a partnership for value based healthcare.  This means ACOs should have programs and policies in place that align with the employer’s goals of promoting patients’ access high quality care, and  efficient use of care.  Appropriate utilization of high priced procedures, integration of step therapies, and shared decision-making have been shown to reduce cost and improve outcomes.

Finally, employers want their ACOs to embody quality improvement and payment reform. For decades, employers have been concerned about the variance inquality of care of our health care system. They know they spend too much for care that is too often unneeded, unsafe, and of poor quality. ACOs should be committed to quality improvement, and capture data so they can track their quality outcomes including patient reported outcomes. They should work with their partners implement new forms of payment that rewards for good quality, and that does not pay for waste and efficiency.

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Lauren Vela, MBA

Senior Director of Member Value, Pacific Business Group on Health

As Senior Director of Member Value, Lauren works directly with the large purchaser members of PBGH to facilitate collaboration and to support their purchaser-driven initiatives impacting healthcare delivery in the US. To that end, Lauren manages the processes of translating PBGH’s ground-breaking work in transparency and accountability into workable solutions for PBGH member organizations.

Prior to this role, Lauren was the Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Employers Forum (SVEF), a coalition of high tech employers that benchmark benefit designs and collaborate for improvement. During her SVEF tenure, Lauren systematized the group’s benchmarking practices and served as a facilitator and strategist for their joint projects with regard to both US-based and international employee benefit programs.

Prior to the SVEF role, Lauren enjoyed a twelve-year tenure with PBGH serving in three distinct areas; multi-stakeholder health information exchange, provider group organization improvement, and employer value-based purchasing. To this day, SVEF and PBGH maintain a strategic alliance and Ms. Vela works closely with purchaser members of both groups.

 

A New Alphabet Soup of Payment Models, Medicare Programs Drives Providers to Focus on Population Health

For providers, changes in payment models are now driving a much stronger emphasis on population health. Under the traditional fee-for-service model, providers don’t have a financial incentive to think about the health of a given population or community; they are simply paid for every test or procedure performed on each individual. But under new payment models such as accountable care organizations (ACOs) with shared savings, providers’ ability to improve the health of a population is directly tied to financial reward—and, in cases when they fail, a financial penalty. Some new payment models also help pay for care coordination and other much-needed services.

All of this recent change is being driven by the 800-pound gorilla in healthcare, Medicare. The Medicare program has put a huge new emphasis on value-based payment models. In January of this year, Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that by 2018, 50 percent of traditional Medicare payments will be tied to quality or value, via alternative payment models like ACOs and bundled payment arrangements.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) recently passed by Congress makes dramatic changes in how Medicare pays providers. By 2019,Medicare providers must choose between participating in an alternative payment mechanism (APM) or in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Providers who receive a significant percentage of their income through APMs can opt out of MIPS and receive annual bonus payments of 5 percent. Those who participate in MIPS will be scored based on quality measures, with their scores reported publicly. High-scoring providers will earn financial rewards, while low-scoring providers will be subject to payment reductions. Given a choice between these two paths, there is an enormous incentive to move to APMs to avoid being publicly “graded” and possibly penalized.

As Medicare goes, so goes the rest of the healthcare system, and we are seeing a dramatic shift toward more value-based payment in the commercial sector as well. As much as 40 percent of payments to providers from commercial health plans are now tied to value, according to Catalyst for Payment Reform’s 2014 Scorecard on Commercial Payment Reform. Across the board, most providers understand the new payment models have the potential to help them deliver better care by actually paying for care coordination. And many recognize that better population health management can lead to greater income as well. Still, some providers are concerned about how all of this will affect their autonomy. However, the alternative—greater cuts in the Medicare fee schedule—is even less palatable.

Already, we have seen some provider groups embracing change; there are impressive pockets of excellence across the country. My home state, California, is no stranger to new payment models—capitation was born here. But our organization has expanded focus beyond California, and we have many members in other states doing groundbreaking work. For example, New West Physicians in Colorado has done a remarkable job improving population health with their ACOs and special attention to chronic care management in the Medicare population.

As we continue to change how providers are paid, I am optimistic we will have a triple win—for patients, providers and policymakers alike. Even in a healthcare system traditionally plagued by unsafe care, waste and inefficiency, the right payment models can lead to better population health, along with financial gains for providers and higher-value care all around.

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Don Crane is President and CEO of CAPG, the nation’s only professional association that exclusively represents capitated, coordinated care organizations, and is a leading voice promoting the interests of physicians practicing accountable care across the nation. CAPG consists of over 190 multispecialty medical groups and IPAs that provide medical care to over 16 million patients across 39 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

 Mr. Crane is in the forefront of California and national public policy advocacy on behalf of accountable care organizations across the country as they make the journey from volume to value and move into risk based alternative payment models.  

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