Press Release

Employers Can Take Immediate Steps to Increase Value of Cancer Care Benefits and Services They Provide, Says Northeast Business Group on Health

October 26, 2016

NEBGH’s report is based on interviews with cancer experts and employer benefits professionals, and a May 2016 workshop attended by 48 stakeholders – employer benefits professionals, oncology experts, care providers and health plan executives. It notes that healthcare in general in the U.S. is moving from a primarily volume-based, fee-for-service system to one in which value is central, and as a result, the cancer care landscape is also undergoing significant changes ranging from new options for better navigation and coordination of care, and more personalized and precision-based treatments, to new payment models like bundles and total cost of care.

New York State Health Foundation targets $1.2M for consumer empowerment - Crain's Health Pulse

October 19, 2016

Meanwhile, the Northeast Business Group on Health, an employer-led coalition, will deploy its $225,000 grant for its Safe birth NY program to help women in New York City and on Long Island make more informed decisions in choosing where to give birth by creating an online scorecard that utilizes maternal-quality data. For example, a woman’s risk for a C-section varies widely, depending on where she delivers her baby, according to the grant application.

Is your workplace equipped to help employees with cancer? - HR Dive

October 13, 2016

Given the absolute flurry of coverage plans that is stressing employees out when it comes to health care options, it’s alarming to think that the need to provide helpful, targeted treatment for employees struggling with cancer might not be getting enough attention.

What NEBGH and other voices in the space seem to agree upon is that addressing cancer in the workplace effectively starts with a focus on treatment outcomes. Employers should certainly familiarize themselves with the differences between treatment centers (including centers of excellence), the efficacy of various treatment options and variations in chemotherapy cost.

As usual, HR should keep ADA and other workplace requirements in mind and approach these situations with empathy.

Secret Rebates: Why Patients Pay $600 for Drugs That Cost $300 - Bloomberg

October 5, 2016

Many employers and insurers have come up with a simple way to avoid the problem for many of their clients: exempt medicine for diabetes and other chronic conditions from deductibles in the first place.

But why not break up the rebate checks and send the cash back to the patients who paid for the drugs? Representatives of corporate health plans say it would be impractical to do so because they get the money months after employees bought the drugs.

Says Laurel Pickering, chief executive of the Northeast Business Group on Health, a coalition of large employers: “It would be very difficult to figure out how to administer that.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering launches service catering to employers - Crain's Health Pulse

September 26, 2016

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is already in-network for many major employers, but the specialty hospital’s new service, MSK Direct, aims to make sure it’s the first place employees and their family members turn to when faced with a cancer diagnosis.

The program, designed to guide people toward their first appointment at the hospital, launched at CBS Corp. in early 2016. The MSK Direct team is now on call for employees at six different organizations in the New York metro area, including Princeton University and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

MSK Direct can arrange for initial evaluations or second opinions, as well as cancer treatment and support services such as counseling.

“At each company, we try to respond to the unique needs of both the employer and employee population,” said Wendy Perchick, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Memorial Sloan Kettering. “There are different levels of expertise and capabilities in navigating the health care environment, so we want to make sure we customize and respond.”

Once people make their way into the health system, they are able to access existing care-coordination services, she added.

Neither the companies nor their employees pay a fee to consult with MSK Direct.

“From their perspective, it’s a line to generate business for them, I’m sure,” said Stephen Mirante, executive vice president of human resources at CBS. “But from our perspective, it gets people to a quality facility sooner than they would have, and generates better outcomes. It’s good for us and it’s good for our employees.”

Nationally, there’s a trend of providers working more directly with employers as they take on more risk through value-based payments, said Laurel Pickering, president and chief executive of the Northeast Business Group on Health. “Part of why it’s not as common here is we don’t have a concentration of employees going to any one system or provider because there’s more choice,” she said.

Another local specialty hospital, the Hospital for Special Surgery, has adopted a similar approach over the past five or so years. HSS, specializing in orthopedics, has arrangements with about a dozen different companies. Its services range from providing educational materials to offering on-site physical therapy and physician visits.

“Employers are providing some element of insurance coverage for employees and influencing the decisions made by their employees through the coverage provided, so we work hard to make sure they know who we are and the value we provide,” said Louis Shapiro, the hospital’s president and chief executive.—C.L.

How employers can best tackle workplace obesity - EBN

September 21, 2016

New research from the Northeast Business Group on Health reveals that targeted, personalized programs combined with nutrition and fitness activities could help increase the effectiveness of employers’ efforts to tackle the obesity epidemic.

The study reveals that obesity is one of the biggest drivers of employer healthcare costs, with more than $73.1 billion spent annually. Therefore it is not surprising that NEBGH’s employer members rank weight control as one of the top three conditions that need to be addressed through workplace wellness or disease management.

“Obesity of employees is a concern for employees because they want to attract and retain a healthy and productive workforce with high performance capabilities,” says study co-author and NEBGH’s Medical Director Dr. Jeremy Nobel. “There’s also the need to manage healthcare costs, because obesity significantly increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, musculoskeletal disorders and cancer.”

Many organizations offer programs such as nutritional education, onsite healthy eating and subsidized gym memberships. However, employers report that obstacles to success include lack of employee engagement due to stigma or embarrassment plus the cost of implementing new programs. There is also uncertainty about return on investment.

Employers can typically determine the health status of their employee population based on aggregate data captured by voluntary, individual completion of confidential health risk assessments. “Individual identities are blinded but average data can be analyzed to gain insight into the particular burden on one employer vs another,” Nobel says.

A targeted and confidential plan of attack

To avoid violating confidentiality, the design of communications to employees about customized programs must be thoughtful and cautious.

“You invite people with very specific and clear messages. For example, you could say ‘if you have a Body Mass Index of 35, this program may be useful for you,’” he continues. “People can self-identify and self-refer into programs like virtual coaching or support groups that are most appropriate and most likely to be effective for them.”

The report features a case study describing successful, personalized interventions by the New Jersey-based utility company Public Service Enterprise Group in partnership with the Chicago-based weight-management company Retrofit.

PSEG’s employees had an average age of 48, were 85% male and 73% overweight or obese. They work in a highly technical environment. Eligibility for the Retrofit pilot required employees to have a BMI of 30 or above and commit to at least one year of the program. The first six months focused on weight loss and the second half of the year on habit formation.

Participants had a coach they could meet with in person or via video, according to their preference. They received a fitness tracker and wireless scale. One hundred and twelve employees enrolled from eight different sites and after four months 92% were still participating. Over the same period, 89% of the group lost weight and a total of 800 pounds were lost collectively. Five employees moved out of the morbidly obese category into a lower risk group.

PSEG used data to demonstrate need and identify a strong enough business case to obtain executive leadership, management and obtain union support. Because of the high rate of obesity in the employee population, in order to scale the pilot, PSEG decided to target the most at-risk employees with a BMI of 35 or greater in the first year of a three-year contract with Retrofit.

Nobel agrees that it is important to base programming on employee data and establish success metrics for a program before it is rolled out.

“In addition to engagement dynamics and weight loss, you can measure improvement in co-morbid conditions like hypertension or diabetes,” he says. “For example you can look at the cohort and say the average abnormal blood pressure of 145 over 95 dropped to a normal reading of 140 over 90 in eight weeks.”