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Faces of Phia: Episode - Taking Account with Lisa T!

In this episode of Faces of Phia, Adam and Brady interview the superpowered controller of The Phia Group.  From adventures in the Steel City to conquering “nice problems to have,” the team covers it all in this candid discussion.

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The New Medicare and Medicaid Bills

By: Erin Hussey, Esq.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the progressive push for Medicare-for-All. For instance, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is seeking to introduce an updated bill called the Medicare for All Act of 2019. If passed, this bill would transform the U.S. health care system as it would essentially create a “single-payer” system run by the government. Medicare-for-All has also created a lot of uncertainty. For example, Medicare does not cover certain long-term care and does not include coverage for hearing, dental, vision or foot care, but supposedly the bill proposes to add some of these benefits.

Given the uncertainty of how a Medicare-for-All model would work in the U.S., there could be more support for a bill that was introduced on February 13th, called the Medicare at 50 Act. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) introduced this bill which details a Medicare buy-in option for Americans ages 50 to 64, who have not reached the Medicare eligible age of 65. This would allow individuals in that age range to buy Medicare plans instead of purchasing on the Obamacare marketplaces if they do not have coverage through their employer, or as an alternative option if they do have coverage through their employer. Stabenow believes this will allow for lower premiums than what is offered on the individual market and the bill would allow those who qualify for the marketplace subsidies to utilize those funds to buy into Medicare. She also believes the bill would get bipartisan support and that it’s something that could work right now, whereas Medicare-for-all is a more drastic undertaking for the U.S.

To add another layer to the above, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) re-introduced a bill on February 14th called the State Public Opinion Act. This bill would allow those who are not already eligible for Medicaid to buy into a state Medicaid plan regardless of their income.

We will be watching to see how these bills play out and to see how much support they receive from both sides of the aisle.

 


Empowering Plans: P65 - Hail to the Chief!

In this can’t miss episode of Empowering Plans, Brady and Ron dissect the President’s State of the Union Address, and focus in on how it will impact those of us servicing health benefit plans – and the entire healthcare industry. This one is going to be huge.

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What We Love About Self-Funding in 2019

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and we’re feeling the love.  Too often we, as an industry, spend our time discussing issues, problems, and concerns, and don’t dedicate enough time to the features and opportunities that make self-funding great.  We focus so much on “how we save” self-funding, that we forget to celebrate the reasons why self-funding is worth saving in the first place.  Join the team as they discuss what makes self-funding such a great option for so many employers and employees, as well as the incredibly cool new innovations rolling out in 2019, that will be sure to make self-funding a sweetheart for even more employers this year and beyond.

Click Here to View Our Full Webinar on YouTube

Click Here to Download Webinar Slides Only


Hey, Watch Your Language!

By: Jon Jablon, Esq.

This is a topic we’ve discussed numerous times in memos, phone calls, conferences, webinars, and any other time reference-based pricing is discussed – and it continues to be a relevant topic throughout the industry. A health plan utilizing some sort of RBP will get the most bang for its buck if the language in its SPD is strong – and of course if the language is weak, the plan’s payment methodology will be extremely difficult to enforce, and could even subject the Plan Administrator to liability.

Simply put: if your plan is using reference-based pricing – whether for all claims, only out-of-network claims, facility only, or any other subset of claims – your plan must have clear and accurate language.

Clear language describes what the plan will pay in a comprehensible manner. An example of clear verbiage is “This plan’s benefits equal 150% of the applicable Medicare rate, when such rate can be calculated by the Plan Administrator.”

An example of unclear verbiage is “All claims are paid at 150% of Medicare. Participating facility claims are subject to this rate only if the physician is nonparticipating. All facility claims are paid at the lesser of the reference based pricing amount or 70% of billed charges when inside the plan’s service area.” (Both examples are direct quotes from SPDs.)

Accuracy is just as important as clarity, if not more; an example of accurate verbiage is “When a given service is performed by an in-network provider, the Maximum Allowable Charge will be the PPO rate applicable to that provider. For all other claims, this plan pays the lesser of the following factors…”.

An example of inaccurate verbiage is “All in network claims are subject to code review and will be paid based on an amount deemed usual and reasonable and customary by this Plan, including but not limited to a multiple of the prevailing Medicare allowance.” (Again, both quotes are taken from real SPDs).

These are just a few examples of what we see on a daily basis; as medical providers begin to treat RBP differently than ever before, it is similarly more important than ever to make sure the plan’s language is optimal.

As a final note, the idea that language needs to be strong, clear, and accurate applies to all plans – not just those using RBP. It just so happens that RBP is a bit more novel than other traditional plan designs, so RBP language is sometimes less well-established in many SPDs. But together, as an industry, we can fix that!


New Action on Drug Pricing: Medicare-Like Rates?

By: Brady Bizarro, Esq.

In 2012, the annual cost of insulin needed to treat patients with type 1 diabetes was $2,864. Today, the cost has risen to over $6,000. For working-class families already struggling to keep up with everyday expenses, this increased economic burden has forced some to choose between food and life-saving medication. CBS News has reported that more than one-quarter of Americans living with diabetes have cut back on their insulin usage to ration their supply, and that can be dangerous. Skyrocketing insulin prices are just one example of high prescription drug costs, which the Trump administration has made it a priority to address.

We have written a lot before about the administration’s proposals to lower drug costs: from ending pharmacy gag rules to outlawing the use of co-pay coupons, ideas for controlling costs were in no short supply. Ideas and tweets, however, have a limited impact. Real legislation is needed to produce meaningful reform, and as we are now well into 2019, there are indications that bipartisan action may be on the horizon.

Soon after taking over powerful congressional committees, Democrats began scheduling hearings and reaching out to drug companies asking for detailed information regarding their pricing practices. On February 7th, Democrats, including 2020 hopeful Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), unveiled a bill that would allow Medicare, the largest purchaser of pharmaceuticals in the country, to negotiate drug prices directly with drug manufacturers. The Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act would permit such negotiations and strip drug manufacturers of their patent protection for a drug if those negotiations failed. For self-funded plans, this is key. Not only would negotiated Medicare rates provide a benchmark for pricing (as is the case for most medical services), but failed negotiations would allow generic versions of expensive drugs to market much earlier than previously allowed by law.

For now, lawmakers are hoping to get President Trump to support this bill. The president’s support would put significant pressure on Republican congressmen to support the bill. As always, we will bring you the latest developments as they unfold.


Faces of Phia: Episode 8 - It’s Tomasz Time!

Live from Polska – a journey around the world leads to… The Phia Group. Join Adam and Brady as they take a journey through history and across oceans, to share the story of this unsung hero.

 

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Empowering Plans: P64 - Hospital Transparency!

Let’s Escargot & Meet LCARA: In this episode Ron and Brady discuss the new legal compliance and regulatory affairs team (“LCARA”) with team member Philip Qualo, and specifically address recent efforts to promote hospital transparency.

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