Tuesday Tidbits

There is a lot going on.

  • Interesting perspective on the future of value based healthcare from the HHS Secretary Alex Azar as reported by Fierce Healthcare.

Azar stated unequivocally that there would be “no going back to a system that pays for procedures rather than value,” and promised that the administration has no fear of disrupting current arrangements, regardless of the special interests backing them. He also indicated a willingness to embrace “perhaps even an uncomfortable degree” of federal intervention in order to make the system work better for the stakeholders he sees as least well-served currently: patients and taxpayers.

The Secretary’s complete remarks to the Foundation of American Hospitals is available here

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, and on plan renewal thereafter, people enrolled in fully insured group health benefit plans will have discounts applied to their medication cost at the point of sale. The savings will apply to plan participants who are filling a prescription for a drug where the manufacturer provides a rebate.  

The HHS Secretary complimented UHC on its announcement.  

“Today’s announcement by UnitedHealthcare is a prime example of the type of movement toward transparency and lower drug prices for millions of patients that the Trump Administration is championing. Empowering patients and providers with the information and control to put them in the driver’s seat is a key part of our strategy at the Department of Health and Human Services to bring down the price of drugs and make healthcare more affordable. We are already seeing clear momentum toward the type of innovation in the private sector that will be an important part of the value-based transformation that is coming to America’s healthcare system.”

The FEHBlog was struck by the Washington Post’s article’s point that the largest prescription benefit managers, Express Scripts and CVS Health, permit their health plan to choose this option.  Nationwide FEHB plans cannot implement this approach because OPM requires them to pay all rebates to the plan reserves. (This requirement does not apply to HMOs unless they opt for experience rating.)  It will be interesting to see if OPM allows nationwide FEHB plans flexibility to implement this approach that the Trump Administration has endorsed. 

  • At the HIMSS conference going on this week in Las Vegas, Healthcare Dive reports that Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt discussed the role of technology in healthcare. Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced the resurrection of the Blue Button app. Blue Button 2.0 will be rolled out to Medicare beneficiaries.  Blue Button 2.0 is “a new and secure way for Medicare beneficiaries to access and share their personal health data in a universal digital format. This enables patients who participate in the traditional Medicare program to connect their claims data to the secure applications, providers, services, and research programs they trust.”  CMS wants other health plans to offer Blue Button 2.0 and the FEHBlog expects an FEHBP carrier letter on the topic soon.  What perturbs the FEHBlog is that Blue Button continues to rely on health plans claims data after the government spent $32 billion on electronic medical records for health care providers. In a more perfect world, the interoperable EHRs would be feeding data to Blue Button.