Category Archives: pharmacy benefit managers

The Disruptors are Coming: The New Health Economy and the Medical-Industrial Complex

A big shout out to Dr. Don MCanne for his Quote of the Day post Friday for today’s topic, and a belated shout out to him for his post last Tuesday about the gains from the ACA being reversed. See my post, ACA Gains Reversing.

This time, Don alerts us to the impact the new health economy disruptors will have and what it might mean for the push towards single payer health care.

Last month, the PwC Health Research Institute (HRI) released a report analyzing the new health economy landscape as more and more companies pursue acquisitions of companies in the insurance, pharmacy benefit management, health care services and retail spaces.
In the last six months, the report states, there has been an explosion of unusual deals between companies such as CVS Health buying Aetna, Cigna buying Express Scripts, UnitedHealth’s Optum buying DaVita Medical Group (Kidney disease and dialysis), Albertsons agreeing to merge with Rite Aid, as well as the much highly publicized partnership between Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway.

Naturally, these aren’t the only deals that have occurred. Last year, 67 deals occurred in the US health services market, including payers and providers, the report adds.

The value of these deals increased 146% over those in 2016. The US health care industry, the report states, is undergoing seismic changes generated by a collision of forces: the shift from volume to value, rising consumerism, and the decentralization of care.
The HRI identified four new archetypes of companies engaged in this new health care economy:

• Vertical integrators — CVS & Aetna, Optum & DaVita, Cigna & Express Scripts
• Employer activists — February 2016, 20 US companies form Health Transformation Alliance (HTA) and developed tools to help its members cut employee healthcare costs. In January, Amazon, JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway partnered to lower costs and improve employee satisfaction
• Technology invaders — Amazon selling over-the-counter medical products, offering discounted access to Prime service, Apple’s newest operating system allows users to access parts of their EHRs on their phones
• Health retailers — CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Albertsons and others using their network of store locations, consumer insights, national and global supply chains, and national (and sometimes global) branding to attract consumers looking for affordable, convenient care and goods

The HRI report recommends that all healthcare companies should make the following moves:

• Invest in customer experience
• Plan for a broader workforce
• Focus on price

This is how Don McCanne commented on this report. He wrote that Arnold Relman, like Dwight Eisenhower did about the military-industrial complex, warned us about the medical-industrial complex, but did not realize how intense the disruption would be in health care that the HRI report discusses.

According to Don, we are about to see a takeover by the disruptors who “have a leg up on many established health players in understanding consumers and tailoring experiences for them.”
The disruptors are “positioned to address price through greater scale, ownership of middlemen and a wider grip on the US health system value chain.”

If you don’t believe Don, then read what Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan said, “To attack these issues, we will be using top management, big data, virtual technology, better customer engagement and the improved creation of customer choice (high deductibles have barely worked). This effort is just beginning.”

This is exactly what the Waitzkin et al. book describes when explaining the methods used by the medical-industrial complex to control and direct the American health care system for power and profit of the members of the complex.

Dr. McCanne observes that it is almost as if the physicians, nurses and other health care professionals and the hospitals and clinics in which they provide their services have become a peripheral, albeit necessary, appendage to their wellness-industrial complex that is displacing our traditional health care delivery system and its more recent iteration of the medical-industrial complex.

In other words, the physicians and nurses and other professionals have become proletarianized, and the hospitals and clinics merely the places where the medical-industrial complex derives its power and profit from.

Dr. McCanne posits the following questions as to what the health care system would look like once the transformation is well along:

• Once the silos of the health care system are flattened, how will health care be financed?
• Will there still be networks?
• Cost sharing barriers such as high deductibles?
• Will it be possible to fund this expansive model of the wellness-industrial complex through anything remotely resembling an insurance product, especially when the insurers are being amalgamated into what was formerly the health care delivery system?
• And now that the plutocracy is in control, how could we ever remove the passive investors that extract humongous rents through the wellness-industrial complex?
• And what about the patients? Did we forget about them?

It is obvious from his comments that this new health economy is going to be more problematic for providing universal health care to all Americans and will only make things worse. His Rx is to begin now to move to a single payer, Medicare for All program, and not worry about what has passed.

Smart diagnosis and prescription.

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Say Goodbye to Comp

Fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, today wrote a very prescient article about the impact the jobless economy will have on workers’ comp in the coming decades.

While the idea of driverless trucks may be something in the works, there are many factors working against it from becoming reality in the near term, and perhaps for many years to come. Laws and insurance requirements and what to do if the truck breaks down on a stretch of highway not easily accessible by repair trucks or miles from the nearest truck stop, will have to considered before driverless trucks put drivers out of work.

Yet, as Joe points out, manufacturing is already seeing a loss of jobs due to automation and higher productivity, which will lead to lower consumer costs, but will exact an even higher cost on the nation’s stability and will force politicians to come to grips with what to do with a permanently unemployed population, especially those in the service sector, who are being replaced, and will be replaced by automated cashiers, as well as those occupations tied to the workers’ comp industry.

If, as I reported yesterday, that 50% of all jobs will be gone by 2025, what do you do with those individuals who lose their jobs to machines and software?

It is a question that few have asked, and one that fewer have provided answers for. Also, what happens, as I also asked yesterday, if the 50% goes to 75% or higher?

The UBI is one idea floating around, but short of that, what else can we do to put permanently unemployed back into the workforce once technology makes them, in the words of that “Twilight Zone” episode, “Obsolete!”

It makes no sense, Joe states, to reform a system that won’t be around much longer. So, say goodbye to workers’ comp, say goodbye to claims adjusters, occupational therapists and physicians and nurses in same, pharmacy benefit managers, rehabilitation personnel, return to work specialists, case managers, utilization reviewers and bill reviewers, as well as underwriters and lawyers.

Drug Costs Make Up Bulk of Work Comp Medical Costs [Infographic]

As reported today on PropertyCasualty360, medical services now contribute to more than 60% of Workers’ Comp claims, in part due to two cost drivers: physician dispensing and compounded drugs, according to Marsh.

While the industry continues to grapple with the cost drivers of physician dispensing and compounded drugs, it would be prudent also to tackle the rest of the medical services that are contributing to more than 60% of claims under workers’ comp.

Expensive surgeries are also another factor in this that no one is discussing, no one at least inside the industry itself. No wonder that medical services have reached that high a percentage.

Oh well, you can lead dumb horses to water, but you can’t make them drink, so let them keep doing the same things over and over again and hope to get different results.

Here is the infographic:

War on Drugs

Consolidation Rolls On In Work Comp

Consolidation was mentioned in the last post as one of the areas of concern over physician payment reform.

Yet, consolidation is also a concern in workers’ compensation, as Joe Paduda reports this morning.

Joe has been keeping tabs on all of the acquisitions occurring in the workers’ comp sphere for a very long time, and one of the main companies involved in these transactions has been Apax Partners, owners of One Call Care Management and GENEX Services.

GENEX has itself been bought or bought other companies in the past three years that I am aware of, thanks to Joe’s reporting.

Reuters, Joe says, reported that Apax is preparing a bid close to $2 billion for peer Helios. Helios is the product itself of a merger between Progressive Medical and PMSI, and is the largest workers’ comp Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM).

PMSI was bought by H.I.G. Capital some years back for about $40 million, Joe states, then purchased for probably 8-10 times that figure a couple years ago and merged with Progressive, and there are countless other companies in the work comp service sector that have gone through similar mergers, acquisitions, purchases, etc.

Given the consolidation in the health care sector with hospitals, insurers, and physician practices, especially the development of ACOs, the consolidation on the work comp will also lead to higher cost for services or cuts to services provided.

Competition was supposed to be a good thing in a capitalist society, but as we have seen before in many other industries, leveraged buyouts, mergers and acquisitions, and hostile takeovers have shrunk the competitive sphere, so that in these industries, only a handful of large corporations remain.

Banking, insurance, and financial services, especially Wall Street brokerage firms, have all been consolidated in one form or another, so that now, a company like Goldman Sachs dominates the market after the financial collapse of a few years ago.

Health care and work comp are no different. Perhaps one day, the world of “Rollerball” will become reality, and all companies will be combined into their own industries, headquartered in different cities around the world, as was in that groundbreaking film.

Who knew the highest form of capitalism was really monopoly?