Walmart to help consumers with healthcare costs, value-based care payments on the rise, and more.

1. Walmart to cut consumer healthcare costs

Walmart wants to lower healthcare costs — and not just for its employees. The retail giant has plans to offer affordable healthcare to its customers, too. As consumer healthcare and out-of-pocket expenses continue to rise, Walmart wants to position itself as a partner in health by adding care clinics, lowering prescription drug costs and hosting screening events. The company has also partnered with Humana on a campaign to encourage customers to buy healthier foods at Walmart. Walmart executive Lori Flees said partnerships with health organizations play an essential role in lowering healthcare costs and improving the nation’s well-being.

2. HHS delivers an “anti-kickback” ruling

When an insurance company approached the Department of Health and Human Services about a potential breach to federal anti-kickback laws, HHS investigated. Here’s what they determined: The unnamed insurer asked if it could offer incentive payments to physicians. In return, the physicians would be asked to increase the number of early and periodic screenings. The screenings would include vision and hearing tests, plus physical and mental health exams.

The issue arose because of the insurer’s contract with a state Medicaid agency. To fulfill the contract, the insurer must provide screenings for a high percentage of its enrollees under age 21. After careful examination, HHS concluded the “proposed arrangement would not generate prohibited remuneration under the anti-kickback statute.”

3. Value-based care payments increased

In 2017 the percentage of value-based healthcare payments rose to 34 percent, found the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network. The report examined data from the following sources:

  • Medicare fee-for-service
  • 61 health plans
  • 3 fee-for-service Medicaid states

Analysts also looked at in- and out-of-network spending from alternative pay models (APM) such as shared savings, shared risk, bundled payments and population-based payments.

“The report’s findings reinforce our understanding that there is sustained, positive momentum in the effort to shift healthcare payments from traditional fee-for-service into value-based payments,” said Mark McClellan, co-chair of the network’s guiding committee and director of the Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy. McClellan also stated, “While we celebrate the increase in overall APM adoption, we also know further progress on payment reform will be important to ensure healthcare dollars flow through models that have more risk.”

4. Experts want simplified wellness tools

It’s a bad case of “too much of a good thing.” The corporate sector wants to implement technology into its wellness programs, but it’s challenged by an overabundance of options. Instead, panelists at the Connected Health Conference suggest population health would best be achieved using a smaller number of products and single vendors who can provide everything a company needs.

Corporate wellness programs continue to grow and contribute to population health. But they’re not just about campaigns and challenges. Experts say they need to analyze data, too. “It’s important to use data analytics to bring insight and offer personalized proactive support,” said Elaine Beddome, senior vice president for global compensation, benefits and employee mobility at HP.

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, chief medical officer and president of Virgin Pulse Institute, agreed.”We need a radical simplicity to bring all the data together on the back end,” he said. “And use the data to personalize and make the experience highly-relevant.”

5. A look at the 1918 influenza pandemic

October 1918 was a grisly time in American history. About 195,000 Americans died of the flu in October alone. An estimated 50 million to 100 million people died worldwide.

“Ever since 1918, the descendants of that virus are still killing us,” said Dr. David M. Morens in a New York Times article. Dr. Morens is a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Last year, 80,000 Americans died of the flu. “It’s a big deal,” said Dr. Morens, “and these deaths are mostly preventable.”The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting the flu vaccine by the end of October to give the protective antibodies time to fully develop.

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