At least you have your health. (Right?)

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It would be a huge understatement to say there is a lot of uncertainty in the world of healthcare right now.

Consumers are wondering how premiums and access to care will be affected by politically-driven efforts to reshape the health insurance market, and providers and pundits are trying to figure out what the industry itself will look like as large corporations within the field strive to stay competitive.

Many of our clients at Evolution are providers and experts in both the public and private healthcare sectors, and our team has decades of combined experience in the field. We don’t have answers for all the looming questions on the healthcare horizon, but we do know that we’re all about to witness a sea change in healthcare this year, and our team plans to keep our sails full and stay ahead of any storms or rogue waves.

Here’s an overview of two of the biggest events reshaping healthcare in the United States right now:

 

 

Bezos, Buffett and a Bank

On Jan. 30, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase announced they are teaming up to provide healthcare for their hundreds of thousands of American employees. Since that press release hit the wire, questions about the project have outnumbered answers by an estimated margin of 1,000,000 to 1.

In their announcement, Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, described the intent of the merger this way:

“The three of our companies have extraordinary resources, and our goal is to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.”

That’s it. No details as to what those solutions would look like, or how these moves would benefit U.S. citizens who don’t work for those companies.

Or when it will begin.

Or what it will be called.

Or if there will be a mascot.

Or, well, you get the idea, though it does sound like anyone working for those three industry giants has cause for optimism if they’ve been waiting to see a doctor.

The companies may be planning to buy up health care providers and supply workers with cheaper insurance plans in-house, eliminating the third-party insurers most organizations rely on. They may only be looking to create an efficient digital infrastructure to streamline access and compensation to improve access for employees.

Whatever their reasons and however the details play out in months to come, the 300-point drop in the Dow, driven by falling share prices for Humana, Aetna, United Health, Cigna and Anthem, is evidence that insurers are worried that businesses are taking rising healthcare costs for their employees into their own hands.

 

Drugstore Insurance

Almost forgotten in light of the Amazon-Chase-Berkshire announcement is the $69 billion December merger of insurance industry leader Aetna and pharmacy giant CVS.

Executives painted the joint venture as a game-changing move that will use CVS’s expansive reach and Aetna’s database to give clients more convenience and control over their own healthcare, as well as hope for reduced costs for medication.

But skeptics point out that other industry giants have also combined forces (United Health Care and OptumRx), yet drug prices continue to climb nationwide. Another criticism of the executives’ rosy portrayal is a bit more cynical: if these industry giants really wanted to use their clout to benefit health insurance consumers, what’s been stopping them up to now?

Leaving cynicism and free-market skepticism aside for the moment, the most logical explanation for the move is that Aetna and CVS are trying to solidify their business in a time of deep uncertainty in their field, proof that even the biggest ships in the fleet are aware of uncertain waters ahead.

 

So what are we left with, other than a lot of unanswered questions? Uncertainty, to be sure, will be the norm for a while, and the ability to change and adapt will be critical for nonprofits and even for-profit healthcare providers and administrators.

After years of observing and working within the healthcare system, our team knows how to stay in front of the trends and maximize results for our clients, despite external drivers like changing markets or political instability. Most recently, we retooled Connect for Health Colorado’s advertising strategy so the program maintained successful enrollment numbers despite federal cutbacks to advertising for the Affordable Care Act and a shortened enrollment window.

Give us a call, and we’ll use our expertise to keep your organization sailing smoothly through a sea of change.