Mid-week update

Aon Hewitt the large actuarial consulting firm, reports today that based on its survey “of more than 1,230 employers covering more than 10 million employees”:

In the next three-to-five years, more than 60 percent of employers plan to “gate” employees to richer designs, where employees are required to complete a “task” to access richer design options. About one in five employers gate their employees today.

“Gating strategies are becoming an increasingly attractive incentive technique among employers as they look to improve the health of their employee populations,” said Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer of Health & Benefits at Aon Hewitt. “For example, employers may offer a basic high-deductible plan to their entire workforce, but make a richer PPO option available to those employees who complete a health risk questionnaire or biometric screening.”

In addition, 68 percent of employers plan to adopt reference-based pricing—where employers set a pricing cap on benefits for certain medical services for which wide cost variation exists with no discernible differentiation in quality. Just 10 percent of employers have adopted reference-based pricing as a health tactic today.

Fascinating. The FEHBlog is keen on reference based pricing.

Express Scripts, the large prescription benefits manager, reports on a study finding that “Forty percent of U.S. narcotic prescriptions in 2011-2012 were written by only five percent of opioid prescribers.” Now that’s troubling. Here’s a link to Express Scrpt’s web site providing insights on narcotic use and abuse in the United States.

In that regard, the Wall Street Journal has a new blog on the prescription drug industry called Pharmalot.

Finally Government Health IT reports that “Personal wellness tracking devices—called wearables—sit directly at the center of two powerful trends that are transforming the healthcare industry: the consumerization of healthcare and explosive data proliferation.”

While the details—such as which wearable is “cool” this year—change quickly, the overall movement towards empowered, informed consumers is not likely to end any time soon, according to a whitepaper on healthcare data analytics. Healthcare providers will continue looking to data for the answer to serve those patients’ needs most effectively.  

Health plans too.