Short takes: Humana’s big MA loss (updated); Medicare telemental care bill back in Senate; HHS releases cybersecurity performance goals; Texas Healthcare Challenge hackathon 23-24 February

Humana apparently surprised Wall Street with their Q4 losses, driven by escalating Medicare Advantage (MA) costs.  While revenues ($26.5 billion) for MA’s second largest plan provider were up from prior year’s $24 billion, MA expenses drove an adjusted Q4 loss of $361 million under the insurance segment. From Humana’s earnings statement: “The sector is navigating significant regulatory changes while also absorbing unprecedented increases in medical cost trends. We believe the elevated MA medical costs are an industry dynamic, not specific to Humana, and that they may persist for an extended period or, in some cases, permanently reset the baseline.” On the earnings call, their CFO cited increased inpatient costs, especially for short stays, and more spending in outpatient surgeries and supplemental benefits–trends that Humana expects to continue into 2024 and even into 2025. Home health under CenterWell were tidily profitable and growing. Perhaps MA’s sector problems were the reasons why Cigna, selling off their MA plans, backed out of their acquisition/merger? Q4 press release, management remarks, Becker’s, Healthcare Dive

Updated Humana announced the appointment of a President of Enterprise Growth, David Dintenfass, to spearhead customer growth and retention. His background is not healthcare but Fidelity Emerging Growth Markets, with previous stints at Procter & Gamble and Bank of America. This assumes that the cost problem can be grown out of. Expect more departures and arrivals to roil Humana, as their current CEO moves to a planned retirement transition later this year and has already laid off staff in January Healthcare Dive

A bipartisan Senate bill proposes to continue coverage of virtual-only telemental health for Medicare beneficiaries. The ‘Telemental Health Care Access Act of 2023″ is sponsored by four Senators: Bill Cassidy, R-La., Tina Smith, D-Minn., John Thune, R-S.D., and Ben Cardin, D-Md. and is designed to make permanent the pandemic waiver of in-person requirements that expires at the end of 2024. The senators cited rural health and overall access to mental healthcare. Mental health remains the leading claim line for telehealth. Healthcare Dive, draft bill

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published voluntary cybersecurity performance goals for healthcare and public health organizations. These fit within the HHS 405(d) Program and Health Sector Coordinating Council Cybersecurity Working Group’s Healthcare Industry Cybersecurity Practices as well as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s National Cybersecurity Strategy. (Whew!) The two voluminous sets of goals, Essential and Enhanced, directly address common attack vectors against U.S. domestic hospitals as identified in the 2023 Hospital Cyber Resiliency Landscape Analysis. As noted earlier this week, there were 116 million patient records exposed in 2023 data breaches, doubling that in 2022.

HHS means well, but this is another ‘blood out of a rock’ situation. Health IT departments all over the US, from providers to payers, have had or are facing layoffs in the ongoing clash of business versus technology, which won’t cease because HHS would like it to. HealthcareDive, HealthcareITNews

The Texas Healthcare Challenge Hackathon is back! After three years dark, this year’s edition will be held this year 23-24 February in Dallas. Sponsored by the Health Wildcatters, a Dallas-based accelerator in the DFW area, it is open to just about anyone who can apply–you don’t have to code or hack. Friday kicks off with “problem pitching,” where participants form teams around identified issues, with Saturday starting with morning motivation and intensive team hacking, moving to participants developing viable solutions, assessing market potential, creating functional business models, and addressing risks with mentor support from industry experts. The day culminates in team presentations, with judges awarding cash and in-kind prizes to winning solutions. Learn more and apply here (application form is under the numbers, click on “Hackathon Sign-Up”). Sponsorship is the second button.

Categories: Latest News.