In the News: Dec 13–20

Middle-Income Families See Rising Costs in Employer Insurance

A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund analyzed data from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey—Insurance Component (MEPS—IC) to examine the financial contributions from workers and their families toward their employer coverage. The analysis found that, in 2017, premiums for single and family plans rose by 4.4% and 5.5%, respectively. The average employee premium contributions for both single and family plans amounted to 6.9% of the US median income in 2017, an increase from 5.1% in 2008. Additionally, the average annual deductible for single-person plans rose to $1,808 in 2017.

Over half of the people under 65 years old have insurance from their employers, which means changes to the affordability of coverage and care for this population can have implications for health systems if this population begins to skip needed care due to cost. For the latest health care trends and potential wildcards to watch for in 2019, please register for next year’s kick-off Sg2 webinar 2019: The Year Ahead.

Chatbots Gain Traction in Health Care Organizations

A recent article from Modern Healthcare highlights how the use of chatbots is gaining traction in health care—for both providers and payers. Chatbots utilize artificial intelligence to communicate with patients via cellphone, tablet or computer. Provider chatbots answer frequently asked questions, deliver procedure information and offer updates, while payer chatbots connect patients with information regarding their benefits.

The use of this technology can provide efficiencies and cost savings for both providers and payers. For example, savings from this form of patient engagement can help decrease unnecessary use of the emergency department and may help patients prepare for upcoming appointments. Implementing these systems can also enhance customer experience for the patient, allowing the provider or payer to connect with the patient instantly, at the patient’s convenience.

As consumers increasingly expect health care organizations to provide them with convenient options that reduce points of friction when seeking care, the use of digital touchpoints will be key to meeting these expectations. To learn more about how consumer-centric offerings can help shore-up short-term revenue, check out the Sg2 publication Short-term Revenue Growth: Quick Wins, Big Impact.

US Organ Transplant Rules Change to Prioritize Severity Over Location

A recent Modern Healthcare article discusses the results of a December 3 vote from the United Network for Organ Sharing board, which determined that the organ transplant process will put the sickest patients first, prioritizing those with the most urgent need for a transplant. The most severely-ill patients can claim any organ from a compatible donor within a 150-, 250-, then 500-mile radius. Prior to this vote, there was a geographic-based policy that divided the nation into 11 regions with defined borders and prioritized candidates based on their proximity to donors.

Despite most of the board voting in favor of this policy change (30–7–2), there are still concerns regarding the impact this will have on regions of the country with a significantly higher number of organ donors than necessary recipients.  Additionally, there are financial concerns, as there is a projected increase of roughly $76 million in spending on air transport.

While demand for organ transplants continues to grow, growth in transplantation continues to be limited by a lack of supply of organs. Although this policy change may have implications for geographic competition, Sg2 believes that an organ transplantation offering continues to be suited best for health systems with programs that have robust resources available. To learn more about whether organ transplantation should be an offering at your organization, read the Sg2 expert insight Organ Transplantation: Select or Deselect?

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