Survey results show pathologists and clinical lab managers why largest health insurers have market clout and can exclude local labs from their provider networks
Over the past two decades, ongoing mergers and acquisitions of health insurance organizations have led to ever-greater concentration of market share, even as the number of large health insurance companies has shrunk. One consequence of this trend is that many clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups have lost access to managed care patients.
The degree of market concentration will surprise most pathologists and medical laboratory professionals. The concentration of market ownership is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the 25 largest health insurers in the United States now control two-thirds of this $744-billion market. But the largest plans are not necessarily the best, according to 2013 consumer satisfaction surveys conducted by J.D. Power & Associates. (more…)
Health insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans are narrowing their networks and favoring the national clinical lab companies over local medical labs and pathology groups
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage health plans is booming. This development is not auspicious for local medical laboratories, hospital lab outreach programs, and anatomic pathology groups because the private health insurers operating these plans typically prefer to contract with national lab companies while narrowing their lab networks.
The mathematics of this trend are simple. As Medicare Advantage enrollment increases, the proportion of patients covered by traditional Medicare Part B fee-for-service shrinks. The consequence is that local labs have fewer Medicare Part B patients to serve and are locked out of providing medical laboratory testing services to Medicare Advantage patients. (more…)
Employers and health insurers want more consumers use healthcare cost estimator tools and pride when choosing a hospital, physician, or clinical laboratory
Having put millions of consumers into high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) as one way to control healthcare costs, both employers and health insurers are now challenged to help these same consumers do better at using price and quality factors when selecting providers.
One solution to this problem is to encourage physicians to play a greater role in helping their patients use price and quality when it is time to select a provider. Obviously, these decisions can involve which clinical laboratory or anatomic pathology practice a patient should select when he or she needs medical laboratory testing.
New strategy by employers and payers encourages patients to choose lower-cost providers, or pay the difference over the price cap
Payers are teaming with employers to steer patients to lower cost providers. Their common goal is to reduce the cost of care without compromising the quality of care delivered to their beneficiaries. This trend may involve clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups, particularly where a lab is seen as a high-cost provider in its service area.
There is credible evidence that patients are willing to consider lower-cost providers. For example, a pilot project aimed a cutting the cost for knee and hip surgeries saved $5.5 million for the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation’s largest pension fund and third largest purchaser of healthcare benefits. (more…)
High Co-pays for Lab Tests May Create a Collection Nightmare for Clinical Laboratories
As new facts about the prices of premiums and the amount of patient co-pays for California’s health information exchange—called Covered California—are published, the news is not likely to be favorable for clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups in the Golden State.
Of particular note is that Covered California has published a requirement that patients will be charged a $35 co-pay for medical laboratory testing. Some lab industry executives have pointed out that it will be a challenge to collect these co-pays. They expect labs will incur higher costs attempting to collect these co-pays while at the same time seeing a substantial increase in levels of bad debt. However, all of this will not happen until 2014, when Covered California begins providing health insurance coverage.
For one category of insured beneficiaries, there is a bit of good news. Insurance exchange premiums for individuals not covered by employer health plans will be lower than previously expected. Covered California will charge, on average, $321 per month on average for the “Silver,” medium-tier plan, noted Peter V. Lee, Executive Director of Covered California, in a report published by the Wall Street Journal. (more…)