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Americans Struggle to Pay for Health Care. Vitori Can Help.

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The results from the Commonwealth Fund 2023 Health Care Affordability Survey are grim. American consumers continue to struggle with unsustainably high costs and inadequate coverage. Unsurprisingly, nearly 40% forgo or delay needed care and don’t fill prescriptions to avoid risking financial ruin.

This includes individuals with employer-sponsored health plans, 43% of whom said it was “very or somewhat difficult to afford their health care.” Insurance coverage didn’t prevent people from incurring medical debt. Additionally, 30% of covered employees report paying off debt from medical or dental care over time, especially for treatment of an ongoing health condition.

The survey concludes with suggestions for making healthcare more affordable, including lowering deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. A comprehensive, member-focused health plan from Vitori Health goes even further by shrinking total medical and Rx cost by 30% and adding these free benefits wrapped in a remarkable member support experience.

  • No-cost telemedicine, including mental health services
  • $0 Surgeons of Excellence program
  • Rx financial assistance and no-cost specialty medications
  • Advocacy for securing hospital financial assistance
  • No member liability for balance billing

Plan sponsors seeking long-term cost stability and security will appreciate Vitori Vantage, our industry-first, level-funded health plan that delivers 36 months of fixed premiums for stable cash flow and predictable budgeting.

By dropping legacy insurance carriers and outdated PBMs, plan sponsors can substantially improve employee health and financial well-being and help bring needed change to the US healthcare industry.

Privacy or Cover-up? Hiding Behind HIPAA to Inflate Insurance Premiums

< 1 minuteWhen the HIPAA Privacy Rule was enacted in 1996, its intent was to protect personal medical records and health information. This goal has since been weaponized by legacy health insurance carriers who withhold data from fully-insured plan sponsors to obscure their justification for higher premiums.

A recent article explains how smaller employers “only receive meager large-claims data at the end of the year. You will not get month-to-month claims versus premium information. The stated reason: carriers are concerned that if they give you too much specific detail about your employees’ health and claim activity, you may be able to discern who has what condition. This, the logic goes, violates HIPAA. The smaller your population, the greater this risk. … This argument is absurd, but it has been the reality in the industry for twenty years.”

There is another, perhaps more insidious, reason for not sharing claims data: to keep employers from escaping the prison of the legacy carriers’ fully-insured health plan. Claims data are the “receipts” for an employer’s plan expenditures with healthcare providers. Without this vital information, fully-insured employers cannot get the stop-loss insurance that enables self-insurance and the cost control and plan design freedom that it brings.

Privacy and transparency are not mutually exclusive. Both can be attained with a modern, self-funded health plan that eliminates the conflicts of interest inherent in fully-insured legacy plans.

By choosing a health plan administrator like Vitori Health, employers can experience freedom of choice, total transparency, and unfettered access to claims data supported by a proven cost and risk suppression platform. Employees will receive better benefits at a lower cost and a remarkable member experience.

Insulin Cap May Drive PBMs to Keep Profits by Hiking Employer Premiums

< 1 minuteMedicare patients cheered when the Inflation Reduction Act capped monthly insulin costs at $35. Then drug manufacturers controlling 90% of the market set this $35 cap for everyone by bypassing the PBM middlemen. To protect their black box of profits, insiders expect PBMs to raise employer premiums.

Consider how much money is at stake. Patients who paid over $1,000 per month for insulin in 2018 are now paying only $35 in 2023. And despite slashing insulin costs by 70%, pharmaceutical companies will still profit handsomely. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders except the PBMs.

This huge gap represents the “60% or 70% of fees” taken by PBMs, who act as intermediaries between drug manufacturers and pharmacies in the supply chain. These fees are a driving force behind the rise in prescription drug costs. Such predatory business practices are all about profits, so a loss here must be offset by a gain somewhere else. Next target, employers.

Employers can fight back and save money by axing their PBM and working with a modern health plan that delivers an ethically-grounded pharmacy program and formulary based on science and clinical value with advanced cost-plus pricing technology for net lowest cost results. Transparent pharmacy services administration ensures that what’s paid at the pharmacy is what the employer plan sponsor pays and 100% of rebates paid monthly.

It’s time to eliminate the dubious fees and questionable practices that raise costs for employers and their members.

7 Burning Questions About Commercial Prices for Health Care Services

3 minHealth Affairs has launched a timely analysis of physician, hospital, and other health care provider prices in private-sector markets and their impact on overall spending. We applaud this pursuit of definitive answers but until such truths are revealed, employers won’t have any cost relief any time soon.

The Forefront series, Provider Prices in the Commercial Sector, kicked off with an excellent article discussing what Health Affairs considers “under-explored burning questions in the price debate” that they think deserve attention. We couldn’t agree more!

Read the full article when you can. In the meantime, we’ve highlighted key takeaways to help frame this important conversation for employers and all stakeholders seeking lower health care costs and a better member experience.

  1.   Do Poorly Set Public Prices Distort Commercial Prices?

Our current systems for setting prices in public programs are flawed. For example, Medicare pays different amounts for the same service delivered in different settings and reimburses more for higher cost drugs. Additionally, relative value units for physician services are often inaccurate. Although there is some evidence that higher Medicare prices lead to higher commercial prices, more evidence is needed.

  2.   How Should Services Be Defined?

Our payment systems rely on very granular service definitions. For example, there are ten CPT codes for office visits. This creates opportunities for providers to choose more lucrative codes and adds administrative costs. The general sense is that our system has erred on the side of too little standardization. Broader service categories may be desirable.

  3.   How Does Quality Respond To Changes In Pricing?

Cross-national evidence suggests countries paying lower prices do not suffer significantly worse quality of care. Studies of mergers and prices suggest antitrust activities may lower prices but not degrade quality, supporting the position that policies intended to lower heath care prices do not necessarily impact quality adversely.

  4.   How Should We Price New Digital Services?

Given the fee-for-service chassis of the US health system, the instinct is often to create codes for these services and then assign prices, but that is problematic. For many interventions, there is limited evidence about their appropriate use.

  5.   How Much Spending is Flowing Outside of The Claims System?

Most pricing research is based on claims data, a valuable but flawed resource. Increasingly, funds are flowing from payers to providers outside of the claims system via fixed payments, quality bonuses, or shared savings from alternative payment models.

  6.   Are Pay-for-Performance Systems Worth It?

There is a growing body of evidence suggesting value-based care incentives are not effective. Often, quality measures are not tied closely enough to health outcomes to merit additional payments. Operating these models is expensive and may distract from other activities. It is reasonable to conclude that some of these systems should at least be scaled back, maybe even abandoned, until better, more targeted approaches to eliminating substandard care and improving quality can be designed.

  7.   To What Extent Do High Prices Reflect Higher US Production Costs and Why?

While we know market power and a lack of pricing transparency and direct competition is an important determinant of higher prices in the US, a further understanding of production costs would be valuable. In part, health care prices likely reflect higher labor costs in the US. Prices of technologies are higher in the US compared to other nations. And the complexity and fragmentation of the American health care system create higher administrative costs, driving higher prices.

Closing Thoughts

It takes time to delve into these questions and implement solutions for changing the American health care model. The more immediate imperative for employer commercial plan sponsors is to take the reins now with a health plan that is proven to reel in claims overspending while improving benefits and providing a better member experience.

How to Boost Employee Retirement Benefits by Slashing Health Care Costs

< 1 minuteFrom stagnant wages to crushing medical expenses, employee net income has plummeted, preventing American workers from saving adequately for retirement. Pending legislation seeks to alleviate this crisis while a growing number of employers are boosting retirement benefits by reducing health care costs. Read More about How to Boost Employee Retirement Benefits by Slashing Health Care Costs

$1,842 Average Savings Per Employee with NO Cost Shifting | Estimate Your Savings