Aetna expects 75% to 80% of its medical spending will be value-based by 2020

Many pathologists and medical laboratory executives may be surprised to learn how quickly private health insurers are moving away from fee-for-service payment arrangements. According to Forbes, the nation’s largest health insurance companies now associate nearly 50% of reimbursements they make to value-based insurance initiatives.

This is a sign that value-based managed care contracting continues to gain momentum. And that interest remains strong in this form of reimbursement, which associates payment-for-care to quality and rewards efficient providers.

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) and Aetna (NYSE:AET) are the fastest adopters of value-based payment models, with Anthem (NYSE:ANTM) close behind, the Forbes article noted.

Moreover, UnitedHealth and Aetna intend to increase their percentage of value-based contracts. For example, Aetna, which now ties 45% of its reimbursements to value, says its goal is to have 75% to 80% of its medical spending in value-based relationships by 2020, Healthcare Finance News pointed out.

These compelling data should motivate pathology groups and medical laboratory leaders to adopt strategies for value-based contracting. That’s because payment schemes based on clinical laboratory performance will likely grow quickly, as compared to traditional fee-for-service reimbursement models, which are being phased out.

Aetna: Lowering Acute Admits

Aetna and other insurance companies are rewarding in-network hospitals, medical laboratories, and physicians who help them keep their customers healthy.

“One way we measure our success is by how well we are able to keep our members out of the hospital and in their homes and communities,” stated Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, in the Healthcare Finance News article.

“I think value-based contracting is going to continue to be encouraged by even the current [federal] administration as a way of getting a handle on healthcare costs,” he continued. In fact, Aetna lowered acute admissions by 4% in 2016 and reduced readmission rates by 27%, reported Healthcare Finance News.

UnitedHealth: Outpatient Care a Focal Point

Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group spends $52 billion (or about 45%) of a $115 billion annual budget on value-based initiatives, Forbes noted.

In March, UnitedHealth Group joined Optum, its health services company, to Surgical Care Associates, an ambulatory (outpatient) surgery provider with 205 sites nationwide.

As surgical cases (such as total joint replacements) continue their migration to ambulatory surgery center sites, UnitedHealth Group expects this merger to offer value to patients, payers, and physicians, a statement pointed out.

“We’ve been able to drive down on a per capita basis inpatient, and inside that we’ve focused a lot in those early years around the conversion of inpatient to outpatient. And I think this is sort of the continued evolution as we focus more on the side of service to how do we get that outpatient into the ambulatory setting,” said Dan Schumacher, UnitedHealthcare Chief Financial Officer, in the Healthcare Finance News story.

 

The graphic above is from a slide presentation given by Eleanor Herriman, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Informatics Officer with Viewics, a provider of big-data management solutions for hospitals and clinical laboratories. Because of healthcare’s drive toward value-based payment models, clinical labs must focus on “operational efficiencies” and “testing utilization management,” and be prepared to “demonstrate value of testing to payers and health organizations,” Herriman’s presentation notes. (Image copyright: Viewics, Inc.)

Also, in 2016, OptumRx (pharmacy benefit management) announced partnerships with Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy. The joint pharmacy care agreements are intended to improve patient outcomes, connect platforms for health data leverage, and address costs of care, UnitedHealth Group stated in dual press releases (Walgreens and CVS) announcing the strategic partnerships.

Anthem: Planning for 50% Value-Based Care by Next Year

For its part, Anthem now has 43% of its operating budget focused on shared savings programs. Furthermore, the company reportedly has a plan to associate at least 50% of its budget with value-based care by 2018.

“When you combine this with our pay for performance programs, we will have well over half our spend in collaborative arrangements over the next five years,” Jill Becher, Anthem Staff Vice President of Communications, told Forbes.

Clinical Laboratories Need Value-Based Strategy

The rise of value-based care should motivate clinical laboratory leaders to create and implement novel and responsive strategies as soon as possible. Without a focus on value, labs could be denied entry into provider networks.

In a Clinical Laboratory Daily News article, Danielle Freedman, MD, noted that value-based clinical laboratory strategies could entail the following:

  • Working with physicians on appropriate retesting intervals;
  • Adding clinical decision support tools; and
  • Vetting testing requests.

Freedman is Director of Pathology at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom (UK).

Clinical laboratory executives and pathology practice administrators should take note of the fact that some large healthcare insurers already have nearly half of their reimbursement under value-based contracts, with plans to grow their investment in value-based relationships in the future.

Already facing the challenges of narrowing healthcare networks, it is imperative that lab leaders also get their lab team to focus on value (and not just volume). It can be expected that, as health insurers look to partner with labs in different regions and communities, they will want medical laboratories that are creative in developing high-value diagnostic testing services.

—Donna Marie Pocius

 

Related Information:

United Health, Aetna, Anthem Near 50% of Value-Based Care Spending

Aetna, UnitedHealth Show Increasing Appetite for Value-Based Care Contracts

Aetna Premier Care Network Plus Helps Reduce Costs for National Employers and Members Through Simple Access to Value-Based Care

Surgical Care Associates/OptumCare to Combine

OptumRx and Walgreens to Expand Consumer Choice, Reduce Costs, and Improve Health Outcomes

OptumRx and CVS Pharmacy to Expand Consumer Choice, Reduce Costs, and Improve Health Outcomes

“V” is for Value, Not Volume

Advanced Laboratory Analytics—A Disruptive Solution for Health Systems