Posted by on in Consumer Health, Network strategy, Payers, Providers

WMT is in talks with HUM about a relationship enhancement, possibly an acquisition. The two already know how to work together in alliances (narrow pharmacy network, marketing collaborations, points programs). If a new structure is needed, WMT and HUM must be considering a major expansion of scope or a set of operating models where contributions are difficult to attribute and reward (e.g. joint asset builds).  What is on their minds?  Beyond any interim incremental moves, what could be the endgame? Catching convergence fever Horizontal combinations among the top five health plans have arguably reached the regulatory “permissible envelope.”  But provider… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Providers, Uncategorized

United’s OptumCare promises a lot of value for health plans.  An integrated system supported by Optum technology should be able to deliver consistent, analytically sophisticated care.  Its ambulatory-focused configuration (clinics plus urgent care plus ambulatory surgical centers or ASCs) should keep patients out of high-cost settings through mutually reinforcing referral loops (where it has density[1]). One obvious question is whether United can use OptumCare to materially advantage its own health plans.  Is a new, nationally-scaled Kaiser in the offing? If that is its endgame, United has a lot of work to do — at least as far as… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

GWAS, Regeneron and Geisinger, and liver disease Genome wide association studies (GWAS) look at broad populations for gene variants associated with a particular phenotype. Often, like in Type II diabetes, one finds hundreds of genes correlated with disease, and that’s obviously not very helpful. In lucky cases there are only a few variants, and that gives clues on potential underlying mechanisms of disease. But for the very lucky, there is a jackpot which is finding a variant that is actually protective against the disease – this is what happened with PSCK9.  It’s as good as one can imagine in defining… Read More

Posted by on in Consumer Health, Digital Health, Network strategy, Payers

Last month, word got out that Verily is in talks with health plans to “jointly bid” on care management contracts. Medicaid populations might be a reasonable surmised as the target given that (1) managed Medicaid requires bidding, (2) Medicaid contracts typically come in packets of hundreds of thousands of lives (which was the scale mentioned in the press reports) and (3) Verily had been considering (but decided against) bidding on Medicaid contracts using Oscar Health as a partner. It is curious, however, to see an organization seek collaboration with health plan incumbents when its partnered venture arms have invested in… Read More

Posted by on in Network strategy, Providers

Last December, UPMC announced plans to spend $2B on three new specialty hospitals in downtown Pittsburgh. Each will abut an existing UPMC hospital currently serving as system center of excellence for the particular specialty: cancer will be located near Shadyside; cardiac and transplant near Presbyterian; eye and rehab near Mercy. Given inpatient’s declining share in care delivery, any new hospital construction in an over-bedded market with slow-moving demographics is a curiosity. Even if, as UPMC has promised, no net new beds will be added to the market, the new hospitals will still add fixed cost and reimbursement uncertainty (acceptance of… Read More

Posted by on in Uncategorized

35%+ of consumers who purchased on Amazon over a 30-day period say they would be “open” to health insurance created by Amazon according to a new survey (see Becker’s headline and the LendEdu study description). Not surprisingly, interest varied depending on degree of commitment the consumer had to Amazon: 62% of the sample were Amazon Prime customers, and, of them, 42% were open to the idea. That implies that 26% of non-Prime customers were open. This data point is a fine example of the kind of freebie thinking Amazon can stimulate just by creating uncertainty about… Read More

Posted by on in NEJM Highlights

A-fib in heart failure – time to be aggressive Over the last 15 years, there has been a growing body of evidence for the effectiveness of catheter ablation to treat atrial fibrillation (a-fib), a condition for which the standard of care has been anti-arrhythmic medications. A-fib commonly coexists with heart failure but until now it has not been clear whether medication or catheter ablation would be the preferred treatment – we now have the answer, at least for patients with a substantially reduced ejection fraction. In a randomized trial of ~350 patients, the medication arm’s death rate was about 25%… Read More

Posted by on in Consumer Health, Network strategy, Payers, Providers

Amazon has many puzzled about its plans for healthcare. Arguably, Amazon is just as puzzled, but is – in effect — running a massive Delphi process to sort out the plan. Amazon is, after all, the Breaker of Industries, Destroyer of Margins. Allow rumors to float, hire some people, have meetings, seek a few regulatory approvals, start a vaguely missioned non-profit with other business titans. Fear and greed do the rest. Stock prices gyrate as investors bet and counter bet on who is vulnerable, incumbent CEOs promise cooperation or competitive hostility, analysts speculate, “old hands” pontificate, and consulting firms send… Read More

Posted by on in Biopharma

The first approval of a gene therapy for congenital disease in the US (Luxturna) inaugurates a new – though long anticipated – era for therapeutics. Along with questions around durability of response and long-term safety, pricing and reimbursement is a particular challenge. At $850,000, the price of Luxturna is nominally higher than other high-cost specialty medicines. However, as a one-time cost with a multi-year benefit, the cost per year of efficacy is far lower. This is not a new challenge for the industry: Hepatitis C antiviral therapies such as Sovaldi and Harvoni offered a similar proposition. While a number of… Read More

Posted by on in Providers

During the UnitedHealth quarterly earnings call earlier this month, Larry Renfro, CEO of Optum, offered some additional color on the growth of OptumCare: “Combined with [Davita], OptumCare will be in 35 local care delivery markets, nearly one-half of the 75 markets targeted for engagement or development. And these market operations are still in the early stages of growth and development” (per transcript on SeekingAlpha). Yet, based on our data, we think OptumCare (including Davita Medical Group and its MedExpress and Surgical Care Affiliates components) is already present in Hospital Referral Regions (HRRs) which include 74% of the US population. How… Read More