AHIP Institute 2013: Price check

About 65 percent of health carrier executives polled said they expect transparency demands to increase. About 65 percent of health carrier executives polled said they expect transparency demands to increase.

Some think that the rise of high-deductible health plans and personal health accounts may be partly responsible for holding down growth in U.S. health care costs for the past few years.

Those signs of success helped energize vendors, session speakers and attendees with an interest in "health care consumerism" at the AHIP Institute 2013 meeting.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) appealed to meeting attendees with a wide range of presentations.

Justin Greis, for example, a senior manager at Ernst & Young L.L.P., gave a talk on the latest news in health information privacy and data security.

Health data protection has been a hot issue since the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), but the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) added twists to the wrinkles, and Obama administration officials have been trying to come up with new regulations to knit HIPAA and PPACA requirements together.

Greis noted that new issues have been cropping up. One is the trend toward HIPAA-affected workers using "bring your own device" (BYOD) policies to use their own telephones and computers to work, rather than relying solely on company-issued equipment.

But Greis noted that plenty of old favorites -- such as continuing plan reliance on Social Security numbers -- remain unresolved.

Many other speakers talked about creative new strategies for slicing and dicing patient data. Asif Dhar and Mark Goldberg of Deloitte, for example, gave one of a number of presentations on creative new uses for patient data.

But some of the hottest sessions and booths focused on efforts to help patients get more of the information they need to shop carefully for care, and to give patients incentives to make effective use of that information.

HealthSparq, for example, a company that sells health care price and quality data, released a study showing that many health plan members still have to make do with basic provider search tools that lack any information about the cost or quality of care.

When HealthSparq commissioned a survey of 186 executives at 117 health carriers, it found that 32 percent were still not familiar with the term "health care transparency."

But 65 percent predicted that demands for transparency would increase.

They suggested that tools helping patients come up with total treatment cost estimates and out-of-pocket cost estimates would be especially important.

Evolution1, the company that sells the Benny health account card, sent Jeff Bakke, its chief strategy officer, to the meeting with a new backgrounder on employer moves to sponsor "defined contribution health plans" that provide a set amount of health benefits cash per employee per month, and a new 1 Plan by Evolution1 defined contribution health plan product.

Jessica Green and Kristin Carman talked about how consumers view cost information, and three speakers -- John Young, Josh Fosburg, and Praveen Mooganur - talked about ideas for using personalized cartoons and other strategies to help make health care, health benefits and health cost information easier for consumers to understand.

A number of speakers urged insurers and employers to make more use of games, contests and fun incentive programs to help overcome health literacy and compliance gaps.

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