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Category: Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt is the founder and publisher of The Health Care Blog and still writes regularly for the site and hosts the #THCBGang and #HealthInTwoPoint00 video shows/podcasts. He was co-founder of the Health 2.0 Conference and now also does advisory work mostly for health tech startups at his consulting firm SMACK.health.

THCB Quickbite: AJ Loiacono, CEO, CapitalRx

AJ Loiacono, CEO of CapitalRx, in a quickbite interview with The Health Care Blog’s Matthew Holt. CapitalRx is up to 1.5m members serviced both as a PBM and as a tech company administering pharmacy benefits using its tech platform. AJ says they’ve demonstrated to the market that they can service customers of any size, and the employer groups are starting to ask the right questions about pharmacy costs.

I’m trying to get AI to write this!

By MATTHEW HOLT

So it’s a new world in blogging about health care, and when I want to write about Digital Health or primary care, I’ve been told that this system at Lex.Page can do it for me

So here goes and lets see what it says about Digital Health or primary care

Digital Health is one of the most rapidly growing and important sectors in health care today. It is a broad term that encompasses the use of technology to improve health and health care.

OK so it wrote that. Which isn’t bad but not too helpful

Perhaps I can ask it whether it thinks that digital health will have a big impact on the future of primary care

The system at Lex writes that it does think digital health will have a big impact on the future of primary care.

So now it’s just spitting back at me what I asked it. Not too sure how to get it to write more for me

I then asked it to follow this sentence — The biggest challenges for primary care are

-Access to care

-Cost of care

-Quality of care

So it seems that digital health can help with all of those things. By providing tools that help patients better self-manage their health, digital health can help to improve access to care. By providing tools that help to lower the cost of care, digital health can help to make care more affordable. And by providing tools that help to improve the quality of care, digital health can help to make

That is pretty damn good given it’s a machine just guessing what I want it to write, even if it didn’t finish that last sentence. I can imagine that pretty soon I’ll be able to spit one of my talks into it and it will be able to write an article out of it quickly. I’ll be playing around with Lex and I can give some invites — if you want one, let me know.

Russ Johannesson, CEO, Glooko

Russ Johannesson has been CEO of Glooko since 2018. In that time the diabetes data platform has expanded internationally, made a couple of acquisitions, and added support for digital therapeutics and distributed clinical trials. He brought me up to date with the latest–Matthew Holt

Matthew’s health care tidbits: #Does Medicare Advantage Save the Taxpayer Money?

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, the controversy about Medicare Advantage is getting louder and louder. There’s no question that it results in lower out of pocket payments for its members than traditional FFS Medicare. Medicare Advantage members use fewer services, and their care appears to be better “managed” –then again FFS Medicare’s “members” are barely managed at all. 

But the big question is, Does Medicare Advantage save the government money? Critics (notably ex CMS veterans Berwick & Gilfillan) claim that risk adjustment games played by the private plans who run Medicare Advantage have cost up to $200bn over 10 years. Medpac (the independent body that advises Congress) estimates that “Medicare spends 4 percent more for MA enrollees than it would have spent if those enrollees remained in FFS Medicare” and go on to say “In aggregate, for the entire duration of their Medicare participation, private plans have never produced savings for Medicare”. However data from the Medicare Trustees and other research from ACHP & the trade group Better Medicare Alliance suggests that Medpac’s analysis is incorrect and that Medicare Advantage saves the government about 9% per enrollee.

THCB ran a long piece (pt 1pt 2) about Medicare Advantage from former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson earlier this year, and a related one from current Permanente Federation CEO Richard Isaacs. But it’s much more nuanced than that. J Michael McWilliams has long piece on Health Affairs Forefront trying to capture the various strands of the argument. His conclusion? “The substantial subsidies MA receives are largely responsible for the extra benefits and have more than offset savings from any efficiencies, posing a net cost to Medicare and complicating assessments of MA’s added value.”

Meanwhile CMS has just changed the most controversial aspect of risk adjustment (which is the most controversial part of Medicare Advantage) by banning the plans from doing it, and only allowing providers to be involved.

Whether any of this is going to change CMS regulations or wider government policy regarding MA payments is less certain. CMS is currently dealing with its replacement for the even more controversial Direct Contracting (now called ACO REACH). But Medicare Advantage is the most profitable part of private health insurance and has many knock on effects for care services and technology. So I’ll be watching this space and you should too!

Matthew’s health care tidbits: The Stupidity Vaccine

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, I think we need a new vaccine. We need one that prevents stupidity.

Look I get that some people don’t think the flu vaccine is effective and don’t think the effects are too bad, so they don’t get one every year. Many people don’t get a vaccine for shingles. But as someone who had shingles long before the recommended age for the vaccine, let me tell you, you’ll wish you had the vaccine should you get it. And even sensible liberal Maggie Mahar a long while back was pretty suspicious of Merck’s Gardasil vaccine for cervical cancer–although since then it’s been replaced both by a more effective updated version and by Cervarix and the long term results are really good.

But since COVID-19 appeared the cultural and ideological identification among most Republicans has been that only wussy liberals take the COVID vaccine. This is stupid and indefensible. Even Donald Trump thinks so! But when he told his cult members that, they booed him! And so the US is stuck on not enough people vaccinated to repel variants or stop ICUs filling up. There are now hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths among the unvaccinated with no end in sight.

But this isn’t stupid enough. Now we are seeing senior political leaders attacking vaccines for diseases we’ve had under control for ages. We’ve already seen outbreaks of measles in recent years, including one at Disneyland. Last month 17 Georgia state senators proposed banning school mandates for all vaccines including MMR, chickenpox, DtAP, Hep B, Polio and more. It’s amazing that these people don’t believe in science, yet they are probably happy to use a smartphone or get in an airplane.

Sadly there appears to be no vaccine for stupidity on the horizon

THCB Gang Episode 81, Thursday Feb 3

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang at 1pm PT 4pm ET Thursday for an hour of topical and sometime combative conversation on what’s happening in health care and beyond will be: Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune);  the double trouble of vaunted futurists Ian Morrison (@seccurve) & Jeff Goldsmith, WTF Health host & Health IT girl Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa). Today’s special guest returning to #THCBGang is the “I make unicorns” King Bill Taranto from Merck GHIF (@BillTaranto).

You can surmise that there will be some discussion around #DigitalHealth valuations!

The video will be below. If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved from Friday as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels

Matthew’s health care tidbits: #What is insurance again?

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, I was reminded on Twitter that many Americans really don’t understand health insurance. A spine surgeon no less in this thread (no jokes about arrogance please) was telling me that he was paying ~$8,000 a year ($4,000 in insurance and $4,000 in deductible) before he got to “use” his insurance–which, as his medical costs were low, he never did. Others were complaining that the cost of employee premiums were over $20K. They all said they should keep the money and (presumably) pay cash when they do use the system. It’s true that most people don’t use their insurance. That’s the whole point. When you buy house insurance, you don’t expect your house to burn down. You are paying into a pool for the people whose house does burn down.

In the US we are on average spending $12k per person on health care each year. But spending on most people is way under that and for a few it’s way, way over. If you take the rough rule that 50% of the spending is on 10% of the people then 35 million people account for $2 trillion in spending–that’s ballpark $60,000 each. They are the ones with cancer, heart disease, complex trauma, etc, etc. The rest of us are “paying” our $4,000, $8,000 whatever, into the pool to cover that $60,000.

There are only two ways to lower that cost for the healthy who aren’t “using” their insurance. One is to exclude unhealthy people from that insurance pool, which makes the costs for everyone else much less. We did that for years with medical underwriting and it was nuts because it screws over the unhealthy. Fixing the pre-existing condition exclusions was the only bit of Obamacare everyone agrees on–even Trump. But now we are ten plus years into this new reality, some people have forgotten how bad it was before.

The other way is to reduce the costs in the system and lower that $4 trillion overall. How to do that is a much longer question. But it isn’t much connected to the concept of insurance.

Simple Bills are Not So Simple

By MATTHEW HOLT

I went for an annual physical with my doctor at One Medical in December. OK it wasn’t actually annual as the last time I went was 2 & 1/2 years ago, but it was covered under the ACA, and my doc Andrew Diamond was bugging me because I’m old & fat. So in I went.

I had a general exam and great chat for about 45 minutes. Then I had blood work & labs (cholesterol, A1C, etc) and a TDAP vaccination as it had been more than 10 years since I’d had one.

Today, about one month later, I got an email asking me to pay One Medical. So being a difficult human, I thought I would go through the process and see how much a consumer can be expected to understand about what they should pay.

Here’s the email from One Medical saying, “you owe us money.”

Continue reading…

THCB Gang Episode 69 – Thurs October 21 — Alex Drane Special!

I am so thrilled that as part of my East coast jaunt I got to do another special #THCBGang. This one is with the amazing Alex Drane, CEO of Archangels. Who among other things has almost singlehandedly changed the conversation about SDOH and lots more in this country. And you know that’s true because Jeff Goldsmith has said as much on #THCB Gang many times.

Listen to Alex’s career trajectory as an entrepreneur; how she discovered and publicized the “Unmentionaables“; the good and the bad of her leaving Eliza, and the incredibly important work she is doing with Archangels. All packed into 45 mins!

This is be available as a video below and a podcast on Apple and Spotify from Friday.

THCB Spotlights: Dan Goldsmith and Jennifer Goldsmith, Tendo

Today on THCB Spotlight, Matthew sits down with Tendo’s CEO, Dan Goldsmith, and President, Jennifer Goldsmith. Tendo is in the patient engagement space, and Jennifer tells us about the vision behind the company – to become that trusted connection between patients, clinicians, and caregivers via software that creates a seamless and consumer-driven experience throughout that care journey. They talk to us about the plethora of point solutions for patient engagement, and how the platform approach that Tendo takes is meant to support a patient’s comprehensive needs without placing the full burden on the patients themselves.

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