Latest Commentary

Health insurance will go digital, eventually

Whenever my wife and I receive a health insurance statement in the mail, we begin a familiar ritual. I open the envelope, show the contents to my wife and ask, "You want this?" She shakes her head. I walk downstairs and add it to the growing pile that I'll stuff into a manila folder in a file cabinet that, at this point, is far too heavy to move. This scenario plays itself out all too often at my house--and probably at yours.

Insurers can help slow healthcare spending

Governent data indicates that healthcare spending growth in 2013 slowed to just 3.6 percent, the lowest level in more than 50 years. Sustaining this slowdown won't be easy, but insurers can play a key role in making it happen.

3 things I'm thankful that insurers are getting right

After celebrating Thanksgiving last week with my family, I'm still feeling grateful for many aspects of my life. I'm also thankful for many parts of the health insurance industry. I decided to dedicate this column to many of the positive changes that have happened recently--some at the hands of the Affordable Care Act, others driven by insurers themselves.

 

We could save $184B if consumers pay more attention to costs

Consumers don't know what health services or procedures cost, so they can't make informed decisions about where and whether they receive care. As it turns out, there are many ways for consumers to get pricing information. So if these tools exist, why don't consumers use them?

How $25 gift cards are driving women to get mammograms

Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid plan owned by MVP Health Care, is taking steps to ensure its members get important preventive health screenings like mammograms. Since 2012, the Hudson Valley-based insurer's customer service representatives have been calling members to encourage them to get their mammograms. And to incentivize their members, Hudson Health gives them a $25 gift card when they undergo a mammogram.

Why wellness programs should use positive incentives instead of negative consequences

I did a lot of shaking my head as I wrote about Honeywell's wellness program last week. The New Jersey-based company is planning on penalizing employees who don't participate in health screenings. And a federal judge just sanctioned those penalties, which include fining employees $500 fine for not undergoing biometric screenings and withholding $1,500 annually in company contributions to employees' health savings accounts for not undergoing wellness screenings like blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol tests.

Insurers: Clean up your provider networks

I have a friend, let's call her Amy, who casually told me last week how she struggled to find a pediatrician for her children since moving to our town. She said all the doctors she had called either weren't accepting new patients or "don't take Affordable Care Act plans."

Will insurers ever cover medical marijuana?

Can you imagine a time when you go to the doctor and he or she asks, "Would you like some weed to help ease your symptoms?" Obviously, that scenario isn't occurring now, but it's possible that it will be a common conversation happening in doctors' offices in the near future--especially if insurers start covering medical marijuana.

Let's address the dark side of Medicare Advantage plans

Medicare Advantage plans are frequently lauded for providing high-quality insurance coverage. And they're widely popular among Medicare-eligible consumers. But there's a dark side to these plans as well.

In fact, dozens of federal audit reports indicate that Medicare Advantage plans are making the same kind of deficiencies year after year, especially when it comes to inappropriately rejecting claims. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found that in 61 percent of the audits, insurers turned down claims for prescription drugs when they shouldn't have.

This is not something to take lightly. Many seniors take prescription medications, and many of those drugs are vital to their health and medical conditions. To potentially block their access to those drugs could prove extremely detrimental.

Taking a stand against provider consolidation

I'm rarely one to advocate for fighting instead of finding peace, but every now and then, you just have to stand up for what you think is right. And that's how I view the recent decision from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois to not negotiate with hospitals that affiliate with each other. I recognize the right of providers to work together and address the problem of ever-rising healthcare costs. And I certainly don't think that provider consolidation is the only driver to those increasing costs. Insurers have their share of blame, as well.