How has COVID-19 affected physician interest in Direct Contracting?

COVID-19 has had a financially debilitating effect on many medical practices. Some practices are not expected to survive. The impact has been felt by physicians as well as other healthcare entities and led to severe declines in fee-for-service revenue. The pandemic also caused the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to make adjustments to its Direct Contracting (DC) program. DC adjustments include adding a second cohort that begins January 2022, providing a capitation payment glide path, and increasing physician capitation choices. 

These changes create an opportunity for organizations considering becoming Direct Contracting Entities (DCEs) to attract physicians who may not have been interested in the program previously. The application window for the second cohort of DCEs opens in March 2021. In this brief, Milliman’s Coleen YoungHugh Larson, and Annie Man discuss DC and the impact of COVID-19 on physicians. 

Will Amazon Pharmacy transform the pharmacy industry?

Amazon Pharmacy, the tech giant’s latest venture into healthcare, launched a mail-order pharmacy in November 2020. The venture provides mail prescription delivery for all patients, as well as the additional benefits of two-day prescription delivery and discounted medication prices for Amazon Prime members through the Prime Rx program. Patients can have providers send prescriptions directly to Amazon or Amazon can contact the provider on the patient’s behalf. Amazon Pharmacy complements Amazon PillPack, which sorts medications into small, individual packages based on the date and time of day they are to be taken. 

Effectively, Amazon is joining the existing pharmacy supply chain. Amazon Pharmacy works with pharmacy benefit managers to ensure its mail-order pharmacy service is included in pharmacy networks when prescriptions are filled with insurance. When insurance is not used, Amazon offers Prime members discounted pricing through its mail-order pharmacy or at participating retail locations. 

In this paper, Milliman professionals discuss whether Amazon Pharmacy will disrupt, conform, or lay the groundwork for future transformation in the pharmacy industry. 

COVID-19 results in the expansive use of telehealth

The COVID-19 crisis and the enforced lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders worldwide have accelerated the relevance and usage of telehealth, which has major implications for health insurers. The usage of telehealth has been limited historically. For example, 92% of U.S. consumers reported that they were not using telehealth prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In this paper, Milliman professionals examine the current status of telehealth in major geographic markets, including the U.S., Europe, and Asia. They develop a framework for telehealth with its key market participants, including a typology of models of virtual care. They also explore insurer proposition design and cost containment. 

Will the emerging vaccines restore workplace normalcy for employers?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently granted emergency approval for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and approval of the Moderna vaccine followed shortly. In November, Pfizer and BioNTech announced a successful Phase 3 study of a vaccine against COVID-19 with an efficacy of over 90%. Days later, Moderna made a similar announcement with the development of a vaccine having an efficacy of nearly 95%. These announcements were met with renewed hope that life will soon return to pre-pandemic normalcy. 

Employers have become increasingly anxious to see a return to normal business practices after months of disruption due to COVID-19. The vaccines offer hope that businesses will be able to prepare to roll out plans to return to pre-pandemic practices in the near future. In this paper, Milliman’s Les Kartchner and Brent Jensen present considerations for employers as these new vaccines are made available. 

New price transparency regulatory considerations for hospitals

As of January 1, 2021, regulations require U.S. hospitals to post to their websites all of their negotiated payment rates in one sprawling machine-readable file, although many hospitals may not meet the initial deadline. The aim of the regulation is to increase price transparency with the goal that such transparency will lead to increased competition, improved customer choice, and ultimately lower prices. There will be challenges, though, to extract useful competitive information from the files. This article by Milliman professionals examines those challenges. 

What Medicare Advantage plan options are available to individuals of different racial and ethnic groups?

Are there differences in access to healthcare—specifically for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans—for racial and ethnic minorities? MA plans are offered in almost every county throughout the U.S., and the plan options available are specific to each county. Anyone living in one of those counties who is eligible for Medicare can enroll regardless of race or ethnicity. What is the impact of geography on the number and average characteristics of plans available to each ethnic and racial group?

This paper by Milliman’s Adam Barnhart and Mary Yeh evaluates the general enrollment MA plans available to individuals for different racial and ethnic groups in the United States. They examined plan options available to individuals aged 65 and over belonging to five different racial or ethnic groups (white, Black, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Pacific Islander, or American Indian or Alaska Native) from 2016 to 2020.