Weekend Update

It may be Monday morning but everyday is a weekend day for the FEHBlog this week because he is on vacation in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina. Congress is hard at work this week according to  the Hill. Of course, Congress is off for the entire month of August.

The Wall Street Journal has a thought provoking article this morning about whether the current slowdown in health care costs will continue given the fact that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn age 65 every day. Here’s the kicker which really should come as no surprise to FEHBlog readers

Another big driver of health-care costs is technology. In almost every other industry, innovation generally makes things more efficient and less costly. But in health care, it often brings higher costs with little added value.

A Rand researcher recommends that in response health plans should cover in full the lowest cost, highly effective treatment. Plan members would pay the difference between that treatment and the selected treatment. This is the reference pricing approach that the FEHBlog mentioned a few weeks ago.

The Journal also has an article about insurers that are conducting research to predict the profitability of different types of plans in the ACA’s health insurance exchanges. The article begins with this FEHBP axiom:

The federal health overhaul’s big requirement that most people carry health insurance is still months away, but already insurers like Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island have a sense of what will matter most to consumers: price.

The FEHBlog believes that the other key concern to FEHBP enrollees is whether the enrollee’s doctor is in the plan’s network.  Of course, that concern would not be relevant to new exchange subscribers who did not have health insurance previously.

The AMA News reports on a survey of patients that finds that patients, particularly younger ones, are interested in using smart phone apps to manage their health care. In the same vein, the Minnesota Star Tribune recently reported on the trend of self service health care kiosks, such as the Solohealth kiosk, popping up in pharmacies, etc. Here’s the key takeaway from both articles in the FEHBlog’s view:

Dr. David Thorson, chairman of the Minnesota Medical Association, also sees potential. “There are a lot of people that we don’t reach,” he said, and if kiosks help them to pay attention to their health, “that’s a wonderful thing.”  The question, Thorson said, is how reliable the medical information is and what people do with it. “If nobody ever follows up, then it’s simply an advertising gimmick.”