In the News: Jun 7–14

Suicide Rates Are on the Rise Across the US

According to new CDC research, suicide rates increased by more than 30% in half of states between 1999 and 2016. In the near 2-decade period, suicides rose in all but one state, with nearly 45,000 suicides in 2016 alone.

The report noted that suicides are rarely caused by any single factor and that 54% of people who died by suicide were not diagnosed with any mental health condition. Some of the top factors contributing to suicide included relationship problems, personal crisis or substance abuse. The report also cited broad, community- and state-level interventions for suicide prevention.

As mental health disease awareness grows, the volume of behavioral health evaluation and management visits is expected to increase. Sg2 projects such evaluation and management visits to grow by 10%, with 14% of visits being virtual, by 2022. For more on how to build a successful integrated care model, check out the Sg2 FAQ Integrating Behavioral Health and Primary Care.

Primary Care Practices Are Relying on Nurse Practitioners

A recent Health Affairs study examined a commercial dataset of US physician practices, finding nurse practitioners (NPs) are a growing segment of the US primary care workforce in both rural and nonrural settings. NPs increased from 17.6% of providers in rural practices in 2008 to 25.2% in 2016. In nonrural areas, NPs increased from 15.9% in 2008 to 23% in 2016. The study also found that while states with full scope-of-practice laws had the highest presence of NPs, the fastest growth has occurred in states with reduced or restricted scope-of-practice laws.

As the physician primary care workforce becomes more constrained due to increasing demand for primary care services and an insufficient replacement rate of retiring primary care physicians, Sg2 believes health systems can strategically deploy advanced practitioners (APs) to boost panel sizes and succeed in new care models. For approaches on how to unleash APs’ untapped potential, read the Sg2 report Optimizing Use of Advanced Practitioners.

CMS Expands MA Coverage to Include Supplemental Benefits

A recent Commonwealth Fund article describes the latest CMS decision to give Medicare Advantage (MA) plans the flexibility to offer supplemental benefits. MA plans may better position themselves to meet the needs of beneficiaries by providing care for items like dental, vision, hearing and more.

As part of the policy changes scheduled to take effect in 2019, CMS announced their intent to give MA plans the ability to target supplemental benefits at certain subsets of enrolled populations. Under this new benefit, a plan could provide enrollees with diabetes more frequent foot exams with lower cost-sharing, for example. Furthermore, CMS has ruled to create a categorization of “chronic” supplemental benefits allowing plans to focus on nonemergent care initiatives, such as transportation.

These CMS changes offering MA beneficiaries a broader range of services indicate a shift in market approach. While each market has a unique MA penetration and growth trajectory, Sg2 believes in the future, MA plans will play an important strategic role in positioning health systems for growth as they determine their glide path toward value. For strategic options to prepare for MA in your market, read the Sg2 Expert Insight Is Medicare Advantage a Sleeping Giant in Your Market?

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