Cigna’s $69 million acquisition of Express Scripts clears US Department of Justice hurdle

As reported on 8 Sept, the DOJ announced on Monday that they have formally cleared the Cigna acquisition of pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts. This puts together a major payer with a PBM manager, the latter area considered to be challenged for profitability as the PBM drug rebate model may be substantially less profitable in the future. Federal policy pressure is ramping up from Health & Human Services (HHS), with Secretary Alex Azar only last week promising disruptive change and more transparency in drug pricing.

CVS (PBM-Caremark) with Aetna is in the works and Anthem is creating its own PBM called IngenioRx. UnitedHealthcare has its own OptumRx for some years. 

Another point of pressure on the entire PBM category is the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JP Morgan combine, sometime in the future when the hype and speculation on What Amazon Will Do turns into actual plans beyond their acquisition of tiny, specialized player PillPack for an exorbitant $1bn [TTA 4 July]. 

The DOJ investigation took six months, reviewed more than 2 million documents, and more than 100 industry people were interviewed.

Cigna and Express Scripts now must negotiate over 50 state departments of banking and insurance–over 50 because some states have two. Both companies already have shareholder approval, and the lack of overlap in their businesses limits the possibility of divestitures. Their advocacy website is here. But state DOBIs can be unpredictable, as Cigna found out with Anthem. (Their contentious breakup is still being contested in court–and Cigna could use the contractual breakup money to ease the Express Scripts debt estimated at $15 bn. Forbes.  Bloomberg, Healthcare Dive

Disrupting the pathways of Social Determinants of Health: the transportation solution

Guest Editor Sarianne Gruber (@subtleimpact) and MovedbyMetrics examines one aspect of social determinants of health, transportation. Social factors have been called the missing links in population health: others are housing, food, finances, and employment. This is not only affordable ‘a to b’ transportation, but also clean, safe and tailored to the patient’s needs. Sarianne interviewed Todd Thomas, then of Veyo and now of Zendrive, a company developing data analytics to make roads safer and to save lives through measuring driver behavior and coaching. Other companies in Veyo’s area are Uber Health and Circulation [TTA 10 Nov].

More and more people are starting to have conversations around the Social Determinants of Health.  And for the first time, the c-suite within healthcare companies are talking about transportation.  People haven’t talked about transportation before because there haven’t been good choices, only poor and expensive service levels. Transportation has always been a low budget item and a cost center. Now people are talking about transportation as a key link in the complete continuum of care. If we are talking about treating the complete person, a huge part of that is making sure they are getting to their treatments on time every time, picking up their pharmaceuticals and shopping to get fresh, clean food. These things make a huge impact in the lives of patients and the members.  It is great that people are becoming aware of transportation and talking about it.Todd Thomas, VP Strategic Business Development at Veyo

Social Determinants of Health, as recognized by the World Health Organization, are the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age, together with “the systems” that are put in place to deal with illness. Transportation is one of those systems.  In a conversation with Todd Thomas, VP of Strategic Business Development at Veyo, he chronicled how the digitization of this sector broke barriers in Non-Emergency Medical Transportation.  The medical transportation, as Thomas described, was very challenged for decades with the same nationwide providers, all delivering the same levels of service and at the same price.  None had any initiative to adapt to new technologies or evolve their business models.  Medical professionals and companies across the US had come to expect poor service as the norm.  It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when the transportation network companies, the TNCs such as Uber and Lyft, came onboard into the market and really changed transportation in the US and in the world. Thomas contends that what the TNCs did for the transportation world has really turned things upside down, and absolutely raised the level of customer expectations and raised standard of what transportation was going to be.  And ultimately closed a huge care gap for transportation-dependent patients. (more…)

Fitbit, Qualcomm Life get in step with UnitedHealthcare’s Motion

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/UHC-Motion-Qualcomm-Infographic-Short-12-06-2016.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Another step towards maturity in the fitness tracker and employee wellness business? Today’s news out of CES was the announcement by Qualcomm Life and UnitedHealthcare to expand the proprietary UHC employee wellness program, Motion. Qualcomm Life’s 2net is the platform that will eventually integrate with medical-grade connectivity multiple fitness trackers. The first will be Fitbit’s Charge 2.

The Motion program was tested in 12 states with select employers. It will expand to UnitedHealthcare’s self-funded employer health plans covering five or more eligible employees, plus companies with fully insured health plans with 101 or more eligible employees, in 40 states.

Employee incentives are up to $1,500 per year or $4 per day, but requirements are strict, based on Frequency, Intensity and Tenacity, or FIT.  The frequency requirement is six times per day with 300 steps within five minutes at least one hour apart; intensity of 3,000 steps within 30 minutes and tenacity of 10,000 total steps each day. The employers receive premium savings based on combined FIT results. Infographic above and left.

Through a Gimlet Eye…It gives a head start to Fitbit in a BYOD program, and a testing platform for a more clinical use of a new tracker, moving beyond the casual athlete who discards it in a few months and another sign confirming our 2017 View. For Qualcomm Life, it’s yet another pivot to stay in the Healthcare Game as apparently, their much-touted HealthyCircles care coordination platform has faded to black. For UHC, it’s a value-add for employers to sell a health plan. But employee wellness programs have yet to prove real health outcomes and real savings. The problem with all wellness programs, especially at the ‘frequency and intensity’ that UHC wants employees to achieve before they earn anything, is that they concentrate on making the well weller. How would it help the marginally fit or heaven forbid, those trying to regain their fitness with a chronic condition? One last point for employers: to get FIT, it involves a lot of employee time away from a desk or a station! ZDNet, UHC/Qualcomm release

Another bit(e) from Fitbit: Quietly at the end of year, Fitbit moved to terminate one of its multiple patent infringement-related suits against the now moribund Jawbone. (more…)

DOJ sues to derail Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna mergers on anti-trust grounds (updated)

Breaking News. The anticipated shoe has dropped. With all the US news concentrating on the Republican convention, the US Department of Justice, late today, without much fanfare beyond the presser, lobbed lawsuits at Aetna and Anthem to stop their respective acquisitions of Humana and Cigna. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch was joined by Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General William Baer, who had been the DOJ’s point person for this anti-trust review.

According to CNN’s report, Mr Baer said “the two mergers would leave consumers at risk by reducing benefits and raising premiums. He also stressed that the most vulnerable would be hit the hardest and that competition would be reduced. “These are so-called solutions that we cannot accept,” Baer said. He added that the mergers are a “convenient shortcut to increase profit for these two companies,” and that the DOJ had “zero confidence” that they would benefit consumers.”

Reuters reported that Aetna and Humana expect “to vigorously defend the companies’ pending merger,” Anthem’s response was “more muted”, as industry observers expected, as it has been more problematic not only in size and with Medicare Advantage divestiture, but also with reports of disagreements on management and governance.

If these mergers were successful, the Big Five in US health insurance would be reduced to the Big Three, with the $48 bn Anthem-Cigna matchup besting UnitedHealthCare for the #1 pole position with 45 million covered persons.

Why is this important to those of us in telehealth, telemedicine and telecare? We are still seeking ‘who pays for it’ (remember our Five Big Questions/FBQs?) and when five becomes three, and things are unsettled….negotiations grind to a halt. (This Editor will reference the post-2008 years where health tech US deals and development came to a screeching stop as we waited to find out what was in that mystery ACA bill. Recovery/reset took years….)

Earlier reports via Bloomberg News and Reuters noted that both sets of insurance companies faced substantial opposition from the start. (more…)

Care Innovations goes East–down home to Kentucky

Intel and GE’s joint venture, Care Innovations, is opening an IT and product development center in Louisville KY’s Norton Commons live/work community. According to reports, the 10-person office was opened to develop “software for medical monitoring systems that allow people to measure their vital signs in own homes and that will analyze the data for health care providers”, which sounds like a description of Health Harmony as mentioned further in the article. Also cited by CEO Sean Slovenski was the recent acquisition of several major clients in Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. Headquarters will remain in Roseville, California, northeast of Sacramento and far east of Silicon Valley. Why Louisville? It’s the headquarters of Humana, currently in the early stages of a merger with Aetna. Mr Slovenski is an alumnus of Humana who undoubtedly recognizes that there’s always talent which shakes loose with any merger, often proactively. He has reorganized the company top to bottom since the days in the doldrums under Louis Burns, and added initiatives such as the Validation Institute plus academic relationships with the Jefferson School of Population Health, Xavier University and the University of Mississippi. Louisville is also a lot closer to Washington DC (1.5 hour flight time) and all those wonderful Federal programs with lots and lots of funding.  Louisville Business First, release.

Speaking of the Aetna-Humana merger, it now has a strong boss man to make sure it works–Rick Jelinek, CEO for a year of OptumHealth, 19 years at predecessor now unit UnitedHealthcare including leading the Medicare Advantage and Medicaid businesses. The stakes are high in that the merger will create the second-largest managed care company in the US. Mr Jelinek also will lead Aetna’s enterprise strategy division, and will report directly to Aetna’s CEO. The timeline, unless the Feds put on the brakes, is to close in second half 2016. The combined operating revenue is projected at about $115 billion, with about 56 percent from government-sponsored programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. The plan, according to Louisville Business First, is to headquarter the combined Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare businesses in Louisville. But, as they say, the meal is still being prepared, and assuredly not everyone at either company will find a seat at this table, or one they want to sit in.

A ‘Game of Thrones’ analogy to potential health insurer mergers

The Wall Street Journal has likened the merger action pending among America’s largest insurers to the series ‘Game of Thrones’, said thrones occupied by Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and Anthem. These more aptly remind this Editor of the final stages of airline deregulation, except that none are in a non-medieval bankruptcy court. Their actions reflects the payers’ urgent concerns that now is the time to reinforce a national presence, that revenues in a Obamacare environment (well, we’ll see the effect of that US Supreme Court subsidy decision due imminently) can do nothing but go down and that Medicare Advantage, commercial accounts, health system relationships (ACOs) and health IT systems are the place to be. What is missing: the fate of those independent, state and regional Blue Cross-Blue Shield (collectively, the ‘Blues’) which are not part of Anthem, many of which are ‘non-profit’ (note the quotes); the positive effect of competition on pricing and a fair consideration of the negative effects of monopoly. Ah, but there are no flung axes, regicide or poisonings to be found here. The real theme of ‘Game of Thrones’ is the effect of the powerful on the powerless (we the insured), which the WSJ writer doesn’t address…..Insurers Playing a Game of Thrones (if you hit a paywall, search on the title)