Daily Insurance Report - July, 19 2023

Your summary of the Voluntary and Healthcare Industry’s most relevant and breaking news; brought to you by the Voluntary Benefits Association®

Majority of Patients Quit Weight-Loss Drugs Like Wegovy Within First Year

By Hayden Schmidt - A recent cost analysis shared with Reuters showed that only a third of patients continued to use popular glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) compounds a year after initial prescription. Healthcare costs were also 59% higher for patients taking drugs like Wegovy or Ozempic compared to those who were not prescribed the medication. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. High Attrition Rates: A concerning trend in weight loss drug usage has emerged, with the majority of patients discontinuing their treatment within the first year. According to a recent study, the attrition rates for medications such as Wegovy, a popular weight loss drug, have reached alarming levels. Approximately 70% of patients prescribed weight loss drugs discontinue their treatment within the first year, suggesting a significant lack of adherence to these medications.

  2. Adherence Challenges and Implications: The low adherence rates to weight loss drugs pose significant challenges for patients' long-term weight management and overall health. The study found that various factors contribute to this trend, including side effects, limited efficacy, complex dosing regimens, and psychological barriers. Patients may experience adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal discomfort or mood changes, leading them to discontinue the medication. Moreover, the study highlights the need for improved patient education and support to enhance medication adherence and increase the effectiveness of weight loss interventions.

  3. Addressing the Issue: The findings of this study underscore the importance of developing strategies to improve patient adherence to weight loss drugs. Healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies should collaborate to develop user-friendly drug formulations, minimize side effects, and simplify dosing schedules to enhance patient compliance. Additionally, comprehensive patient education programs should be implemented to inform individuals about the potential benefits, risks, and realistic expectations associated with weight loss medications. By addressing these challenges, healthcare professionals can better support patients in achieving their weight loss goals and improving their overall health outcomes.

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Remote workers balk at returning to the office, study finds

By Dan Cook - The work-from-home wave that swept through U.S. workplaces during the pandemic is now crashing on the heads of bosses who want remote workers back in the office. A recent report from the Conference Board says businesses that require or ask their remote workers to come back to the workplace are getting serious pushback. The desire to continue to work remotely is so strong that many employees say they will quit working if they can’t stay away, and find an employer that permits remote working. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Remote Work Layoff Trend: An alarming finding from the survey conducted by The Conference Board reveals that fully remote workers are being laid off at a higher rate compared to their office-bound peers. The statistics show that a third of fully remote employees report that their organizations have implemented layoffs in the past six months, compared to 25% of hybrid workers and 13% of office-bound employees. This issue seems paradoxical as many remote workers claim that their productivity has increased since transitioning to a fully remote setting.

  2. Productivity and Social Concerns: On the bright side, 35% of fully remote workers believe their productivity has risen compared to six months ago. However, these individuals are also reporting increasing concerns about losing connection with their colleagues. Almost half of the fully remote employees are worried about this lack of interpersonal communication, a problem that might escalate since nearly 50% of employers do not offer any team-building practices.

  3. Gender Differences in Remote Work: The survey also sheds light on some gender differences in the perception of remote work. It found that male employees are generally more comfortable with office attendance than their female counterparts. Women, on the other hand, express higher concerns about workplace distractions, the difficulties of commuting, and the constant expectation of being available or "on". These findings suggest that the transition to remote work may impact different demographics in diverse ways, underlining the need for companies to be sensitive to these differences when establishing work policies.

Too big to specialize? The challenges of mid-sized brokers

By Gia Snape - Amid the rapid pace of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the industry, are insurance brokers that are too big to specialize, but not big enough to keep up with large consolidators, at a disadvantage? Brokerages need significant investments to grow and scale, and some mid-sized firms may be feeling a greater pressure to sell to unlock more resources. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Increasing Pressures and the Need for Specialization or Expansion: Mid-tier insurance brokerages are currently under increasing pressures within the industry, a trend brought about by the ongoing consolidation where larger insurance firms are expanding, while smaller firms are specializing more. This has led many mid-sized brokerages, such as ONE Insurance, to consider their position within the market. In a recent merger with BSI Insurance, Nicholas Rawluk, president and CEO of ONE Insurance, explained that they were somewhat "too big to specialize," thus, their choice was to scale to compete more effectively. This move, Rawluk believes, allows for necessary investment in their people and technology, keeping them competitive in the ever-changing insurance landscape.

  2. Capacity Constraints and The Challenges of Technology: Mid-sized brokerages often face capacity constraints as they strive to expand. The additional management responsibilities tend not to warrant hiring additional staff, thus adding to the burden of the existing team. Furthermore, these brokerages grapple with the challenge of implementing technology, which, despite being a vital aspect of enhancing efficiency and meeting customers' expectations, can be expensive and time-consuming. Such firms often find it hard to replicate the "Amazon effect" as Rawluk puts it, i.e., providing mass customization while ensuring a seamless, straightforward service to their customers.

  3. Unique Value and Potential for Growth: Despite these challenges, mid-sized brokerages can still maintain strong positions for growth, especially if they have strong ties within their communities and possess unique expertise. In the case of the merger between ONE Insurance and BSI Insurance, the combined company provides local depth and values its workforce, crucial aspects especially for the rural areas they serve. Alex Wong, an insurance industry analyst, notes that every brokerage has a unique place in the market, and each needs to capitalize on their unique strengths. While a high valuation sale to consolidators can be an attractive option, the key to a successful brokerage lies in a well-focused leadership team that can manage day-to-day operations while also driving continuous improvement.

The challenge insurers face as consumers more likely to self-purchase cover online

By Isobel Rafferty - Insurers face a challenge in enhancing relationships with consumers, with more than half opting to purchase cover through an independent website or portal. That was according to technology and management consultancy Capco, which found that 49% of UK customers are more likely to self-purchase insurance – compared to 26% on average across Europe. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Consumer Preferences and Trust in Insurers: The survey by Capco reveals that 54% of consumers would prefer to self-purchase cover via an independent website or portal, indicating a shift towards digitalization in the insurance industry. Interestingly, when choosing an insurance provider, a significant number (47%) cited an insurer’s reputation as the most critical factor, signaling the importance of trust in the industry. Matt Hutchins, the UK and global insurance lead at Capco, emphasized the role of trust and personalisation in establishing long-term relationships with customers.

  2. Desire for Personalised Products and Willingness to Share Data: The survey indicates a strong preference for personalized long-term saving products, with 74% of respondents expressing this desire. Furthermore, 70% of consumers expressed a need for more personalized health and income protection products. Most notably, 81% of those surveyed were willing to share additional personal data to get more personalized insurance products and benefits. However, the preferred mode of sharing data varies, with 37% preferring to use a home smart device, 28% opting for wearable tech, and 25% choosing an in-vehicle black box. Only 18% showed willingness to share their social media data.

  3. Opportunities and Challenges for Insurers: These findings highlight significant opportunities for insurers, particularly in leveraging technology and personal data to offer more personalized products. However, they also underscore potential challenges in building customer trust and engagement in an increasingly digital environment. According to Capco’s CEO, Lance Levy, UK insurers must focus on balancing the adoption of technologies such as AI and cloud computing with effective data management strategies to capitalize on these emerging trends and boost customer loyalty.

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Casey, Fetterman Introduce Legislation to Ensure Health Care for Veterans Exposed to PFAS Chemicals

By Bob Casey - U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and John Fetterman (D-PA) introduced the Veterans Exposed to Toxic (VET) PFAS Act to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care services and disability benefits to veterans exposed to forever chemicals like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military installations. Along with Casey and Fetterman, this legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI). U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-8) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Introduction of the Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act: Senator Casey has voiced his support for the welfare of servicemembers by advocating for the Veterans Exposed to Toxic PFAS Act. The proposed legislation aims to enable veterans who have been exposed to PFAS contamination as part of their service to claim disability benefits. Senator Fetterman, who co-sponsored the bill, echoed Casey's sentiments, underlining the responsibility of providing adequate healthcare and benefits to veterans who have been exposed to harmful substances.

  2. Implications of the VET PFAS Act: The act seeks to classify illnesses associated with PFAS exposure as a service-connected disability, thus making affected veterans eligible for disability payments and medical treatment from the VA. Health problems such as high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension have all been linked to PFAS exposure. The usage of firefighting foam in the military has led to widespread PFAS contamination around military sites, posing significant health risks to many veterans.

  3. Efforts in Pennsylvania to Address PFAS Contamination: In addition to supporting the VET PFAS Act, Senators Casey and Fetterman have been active in securing funds for Pennsylvania to address PFAS contamination. In February, they announced more than $75 million from the Environmental Protection Agency for testing and treatment of contaminants like PFAS in Pennsylvania's drinking water. Later, in April, they secured $266 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act to eradicate PFAS and upgrade Pennsylvania's water infrastructure.

Put a big smile on your face with a dental savings plan

By Julie Noal - I opened my inbox and right near the top was a frantic letter from Lisa, who’s facing an emergency dental situation with a $15,000 price tag on it. She is desperate for options that will let her keep her teeth while not plunging her into debt. Another letter from the Madison family related that their finances are so tight, they cannot afford the luxury of regular dental care — not even routine X-rays and cleaning. That letter ended, “Is there a dental plan for families in our situation? Please answer soon before our teeth fall out!” Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. The Challenge of Dental Insurance: Traditional dental insurance may seem like a good option for families struggling to afford dental care, like the Madison family. However, the reality is that these plans come with considerable limitations, including waiting periods for certain procedures, maximum annual benefits, and expensive premiums. Additionally, some treatments may not be covered if they're considered pre-existing or cosmetic, further complicating the situation for individuals in need of immediate dental care.

  2. The Promise of Dental Savings Plans: A more affordable and accessible option can be found in dental savings plans. Unlike insurance, these plans work more like membership clubs, such as Costco or Sam's Club, offering significant discounts on dental services and procedures after paying an annual fee. Importantly, they do not carry the downsides of dental insurance – there are no annual maximums, no exclusions for preexisting conditions, no monthly premiums, and no waiting periods. Most insurance companies now offer such plans, and information on them can be found on websites like DentalPlans.com.

  3. The Practical Impact of Dental Savings Plans: Personal testimonials and experiences attest to the substantial benefits of dental savings plans. For instance, the author's routine dental hygiene visit bill was halved using a dental savings plan. While there may be initial skepticism about these plans, it is worth considering due to the potential savings and benefits it could bring, especially for families who might otherwise struggle with the costs of routine dental care. Through research and learning from others' experiences, it is possible to find a plan that could be the right fit for individuals or families.

Why UnitedHealth Group Is Going All in on Amedisys

By Marissa Plescia - UnitedHealth Group's Optum is acquiring Amedisys through an all-cash transaction for $101 per share, the companies announced Monday. The move represents a continuing shift to home-based care, several experts said. By acquiring home care company Amedisys for $3.3 billion through Optum, UnitedHealth Group is doing what many companies are eyeing: gaining a “greater footprint” in the post-acute space. This is needed as home-based care gains popularity and the Medicare Advantage population expands, one industry consultant explained. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Shift in Care to Home-Based Settings: The continued growth in Medicare Advantage enrollment has intensified the need to reduce the overall cost of care and transition care to the most affordable, suitable setting, ideally, the home. By 2025, an estimated $265 billion worth of care services for Medicare and Medicare Advantage members is projected to transition from traditional facilities to the home, per a McKinsey report. This shift is driven by several factors, including increasing consumer demand for at-home services, regulatory changes allowing for reimbursement of at-home care, and a broader industry move towards value-based care models.

  2. Mergers and Acquisitions in the Home Care Space: Optum, a UnitedHealth business and healthcare services provider, has demonstrated its commitment to this shift through the acquisition of Amedisys, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based provider of home health, hospice, and high-acuity care services, for $101 per share in an all-cash transaction. This follows Optum's previous acquisition of LHC Group, another home care service provider. This consolidation in the home care industry serves to create integrated care networks capable of delivering a broader range of post-acute services across the care continuum, catering to complex, higher-cost patient populations and providing more 'on-ramps' to additional patient services.

  3. Broader Industry Trends: Optum is not alone in its investment into the home care industry. Other large organizations have also been drawn to the home care sector. CVS Health, for example, acquired home care company Signify Health for $8 billion, and Walgreens Boots Alliance secured its remaining 45% stake in CareCentrix, another company operating in the home care space. The high valuation and demand for these services, as demonstrated by the $3.3 billion price tag of the Amedisys deal, highlight the rising prominence of home-based care. This trend is likely to continue, with more acquisitions and funding anticipated in the home care space.

5 FDA decisions to watch in the third quarter

By Ben Fidler, Jacob Bell, and Delilah Alvarado - The Food and Drug Administration has a lot on its plate over the next three months. The agency may soon issue a decision that could greatly boost access to an Alzheimer’s medicine that’s been hampered by a strict Medicare coverage policy. The regulator could also clear a new type of depression drug and another option against a common respiratory infection. Two advisory meetings are on deck as well, each involving much-debated clinical trial results. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. A New Approach to Alzheimer's Treatment: The Agency may soon issue a decision that could greatly boost access to an Alzheimer’s medicine. The medication has previously been hampered by a strict Medicare coverage policy. Depending on the decision, the accessibility and coverage for Alzheimer's patients could be significantly improved, potentially leading to better outcomes for a large number of patients suffering from the debilitating disease.

  2. Possible Approval of Zuranolone for Depression: Sage Therapeutics and Biogen have proposed zuranolone, a novel antidepressant drug, to the FDA for approval as a treatment for both major depressive disorder and postpartum depression. The drug has shown mixed results in clinical trials but could still be an important addition to the depression treatment landscape. It acts faster than other depression therapies, but its effects are short-lived. Despite concerns about side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, headache, and sedation, zuranolone is expected to secure FDA approval and generate lucrative returns for Sage and Biogen.

  3. Decisions on Much-Debated Clinical Trial Results: Two advisory meetings involving highly contentious clinical trial results are scheduled. These could result in significant decisions about the validity and relevance of the trials, and could potentially impact future drug developments and treatments. The nature of these trials is not specified, but given the complex and high-stakes nature of clinical research, any significant decision in this area could have substantial implications for the pharmaceutical industry and patient care.