HHS Secretary Azar has appointed James Parker to serve as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Health Reform and Director of the Office of Health Reform at HHS. In the role, Mr. Parker will lead the initiative to address the cost and availability of health insurance.  Mr. Parker worked for Anthem for 20 years, among other places.

UPI informs us today that “Prescription opioid dosage volume declined 12 percent in 2017, the largest annual drop in more than 25 years of measurement, according to a report released Thursday by a healthcare consulting company.  IQVIA’s Institute for Human Data Science conducted the study examining last year’s overall drug use and looked forward four years to 2022.”  This study supports the FEHBlog’s view that payer focus should be placed more on opioid addiction treatment than oncontrolling opioid prescription dispensing as that pendulum is swinging in the right direction now.

On the healthcare fraud front, Verscend, a company that provides anti-fraud services, lists the top ten health care fraud schemes in the first quarter of 2018. Fierce Healthcare reports on a case that should make Verscend’s list for this quarter.

UnitedHealthcare is suing the owners of two lab companies for a fraud scheme that the insurer calls “greed personified.” The lawsuit is is the latest in a string of legal complaints against Sun Clinical Laboratory and Mission Toxicology, two Texas-based clinical laboratories that have been sued by several other insurers, including Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi.  In a complaint filed in a Western Texas district court, UnitedHealthcare alleges Sun Clinical owner Michael Murphy, M.D., was the architect of an elaborate fraud scheme in which UnitedHealthcare was “conned” into paying $44 million in improper lab claims over the course of less than two years. 

On the survey front —

  •  The FEHBlog enjoyed clicking through this Becker’s Hospital Review survey. This publication “asked a hospital leader from every state to name the most pressing health concern facing their patients. We then asked how they are addressing it. This year, the opioid epidemic, access to care and social determinants are among common concerns cited by leaders. Here is an overarching look at population health — in leaders’ own words.”  Here’s the link
  • Employee Benefit Advisor tells us that according to a survey the millennial generation is most gung ho about opening and funding health savings accounts. YOLO.
  • MHealth Intelligence reports that 

Consumers are eager to have their doctors use telehealth – but many haven’t tried the technology themselves, and they’re not convinced it’s as good as an in-person exam.  Those somewhat contradictory points, made in a survey conducted late last year by Software Advice, offer more proof that the idea of telehealth may be great, but the execution of the concept has been lacking. And it once again underscores the need for healthcare providers and payers to educate their patients and members on the value of virtual care.

Also on the telehealth front, Healthcare Dive reports that experts find that the use cases for telehealth are clear while the return on investment is not as yet.  

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