Category Archives: Cost

Genomic testing: Cost-savings or cost-inflating for payers

Private payers are gradually adopting genomic testing to guide decision making in treatment pathways for selected disorders. There is still some uncertainty regarding the future uptake of genomic testing and the levels of sophistication of new tests. An article by Milliman’s Didier Serre and Joanne Buckle discusses some relevant considerations that can support a greater appreciation of the risks and gains to payers involved in funding these tests now.

This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Health Watch.

Cost control measures for growing employer medical and pharmacy exposure

Rising prescription drug costs are old news. What is new, however, is just how high they have gone. Take the recent case of a member whose annual pharmacy spend is expected to exceed $7 million per year. That is the annual spend for one member. It turns out the medication is for a life-threatening, chronic, hereditary condition, and the medication will be needed for the remainder of the member’s life. This means no end in sight for the employer-sponsored insurance plan.

In the first year, the stop-loss coverage will cover the majority of this cost; however, there is the potential for a 40% to 60% increase in stop-loss premiums the following year, and even so, this member will be lasered out of any coverage in following years. In other words, the employer-sponsored health plan will be liable for this full amount going forward, plus any additional costs for this individual for medical or other pharmacy expenses (e.g., emergency room visits, hospitalizations, etc.).

Can employer-sponsored plans afford to absorb that kind of additional, annual spend in their healthcare budgets? In this particular case, the drug keeps the member alive, so not covering the medication is not an option, morally or ethically. But if this cost potentially bankrupts the plan, there will be no coverage for this member anyway.

So what can employers do to protect against this claim and others?

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Chronic disease management considerations

Disease management strategies can include a range of activities with varying approaches and levels of intensity. These strategies are also often mixed with other care management approaches.

Differentiating the disease management programme components, targets and interventions is important before evaluating return on investment or cost and quality impact. There are three broad programme designs to consider:

• Transitional care models
• Telephone-based disease management
• Utilisation and case-based disease management programmes

Although demonstrating savings in disease management programmes has proven difficult, it is not impossible. In this paper, Milliman’s Lalit Baveja and Mason Roberts explain the reasons why and also explain why it’s important to thoughtfully manage and continually review performance.

Employers cope with rising healthcare costs

In May 2017, Milliman released its 2017 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), which measures the cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four receiving coverage from an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) plan. The MMI increased $1,118 (4.3%) to $26,944, including a 3.6% increase in average medical expenditures and an 8.0% increase in prescription drug expenditures. This increase of more than $1,100 (a continuation of similar annual increases in the index since 2001) shows that federal healthcare reform efforts, which have mainly targeted the individual insurance market and Medicaid, have had little effect on reducing employers’ costs. Although this year’s MMI saw the lowest annual percentage increase in healthcare costs for a family of four with employer coverage since at least 2001, healthcare cost increases continue to outpace consumer price index (CPI) inflation trends, as shown in the chart below.

Employers have responded by:

Gradually transferring more of the cost to employees through contributions and plan design
Over the past five years, the MMI has increased 30%, while the employers’ share of healthcare costs has increased 25.7%. As a result employees are paying about 43% of the MMI, up from 41% in 2012.

Putting more pressure on vendors
For example, employers sponsoring self-insured prescription drug plans should be regularly reviewing pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) arrangements through requests for proposals (RFPs) and market checks.

Managing utilization of benefits and cost shifting by providers through strategies such as narrow networks and proactive medical management

Staying ahead of the prescription drug pipeline
Over the past few years, prescription drug trends have been greatly influenced by the entry of extremely expensive, curative hepatitis C treatments. While it looks like these treatments are no longer driving prescription drug trends, it is important to monitor the status of the prescription drug pipeline to understand what employers can expect to spend on prescription drugs in the coming years. Employers can stay ahead of the curve through strategies like utilization management, including prior authorization, step therapy, and pursuing specialty pharmacy rebates.

This article first appeared in the January 2018 issue of Health and Group Benefits News and Developments.

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Individual stop-loss is now optional for Next Generation ACOs

Next Generation Accountable Care Organizations (NGACOs) now need to choose between whether they want to have their annual financial reconciliations based upon capped claims or uncapped claims. Previously, they didn’t have a choice and reconciliations were based upon capped claims. For some NGACOs, the choice between an annual financial reconciliation based upon capped claims or uncapped claims could have significant impact. Milliman consultants provide more perspective in this paper.

Impact of Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

What has happened to utilization and costs for mental health and substance use disorder benefits as the mental health parity laws and associated rules were slowly rolled out? This paper by Milliman consultants presents an analysis of healthcare utilization and cost patterns during the six-year period from 2008 through 2013 and suggests that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act has driven increases in access to, and benefit richness for, mental health and substance use disorder benefits.