Risk Scenario + Webinar

The Best Laid Plans

Treatment delays and other effects of health care reform implementation blind-side a deal between a regional employer and a health care system.
By: | September 27, 2013 • 8 min read
Risk Scenarios are created by Risk & Insurance editors along with leading industry partners. The hypothetical, yet realistic stories, showcase emerging risks that can result in significant losses if not properly addressed.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.

Part One

Hale Everson disliked silence and wasn’t bothered by visible distractions. A natural multitasker, he liked to keep D.C. Span, the 24-hour news channel devoted to Washington politics, on his office TV.

As the Human Resources director for the Southern operations of Fuego Motors, a leading European car maker, Hale had been working for years to create a state-of-the-art health care monitoring system for the automobile manufacturing plant’s employees.

On the computer monitor in front of him, there were no less than 10 open spreadsheets.

Hale loved data and along with the auto plant’s risk manager, he had compiled plenty of it.

Hale paused at his keyboard and shifted his attention to his TV set. The U.S. Senate was voting on the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“Come on boys, come on,” he said, as he watched the “yes” votes pile up. Hale wasn’t worried about the outcome of the vote. He’d been preparing for this day for years.

***

When it came to what he required to work well, Brady Heller, the CFO for Apex Care, a regional hospital, was a door-shut type, even though he had a corner office. Brady hated any sort of distraction.

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Scenario Partner

It wasn’t until he got home late that night and watched the 11 o’clock news that Brady found out the Affordable Care Act had passed. Brady watched impassively as his wife sat next to him.

Always keeping his cards close to his vest, Brady quietly calculated what Apex Care had spent over the past four years to acquire numerous specialty practices to build a state-of-the art Accountable Care Organization.

Brady wasn’t worried about the outcome of the vote either. He’d also been preparing for this day for years.

***

Brady and Hale, friends since college, were walking down the fourth fairway at the local country club when the two community leaders, key members of the local chamber of commerce, put their well-disciplined heads together.

“Nice job picking up Neil Zane’s cardiac practice buddy,” Hale said to his friend with a smile.

“Thanks,” Brady said, as he scanned the grassy rise for his golf ball.

“From what I can tell, you’ve got all the pieces in place,” Hale said.

“I sure hope I do. Cost us enough,” Brady said as he turned to set up a 2-iron shot.

“Brady, hold on just second,” Hale said. Brady turned and looked soberly at Hale, alert to the business-like tone Hale had switched to.

“I think I’ve got all my pieces in place too, and I don’t want to wait ‘til the wind changes. I want to bring my entire workforce to Apex on a direct contract. I’ve got all the data…”

“I bet you do,” Brady said.

“And with my documentation we can get this done sooner rather than later,” Hale said.

“You got everybody ready?” Brady asked.

“I’ve got everybody on board, from Turin to where we’re standing right here,” Hale said, and Brady could tell that Hale meant every word.

Within three weeks, the local business weekly ran a story under the following headline and subhead.

“Fuego and Apex Ink Healthcare Pact”

“Savings and better quality of care in focus in multi-million-dollar arrangement”

The story featured a picture of Brady and Hale shaking hands over a conference table.

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Part Two

Under the direct contract with Apex, Fuego’s workers and their dependents would receive exclusive health care at the regional health giant for three years. The contract was set to renew as long as costs didn’t deviate more than five percent on an annual basis from projections.

Scenario_BestLaidPlans

Seven months after the direct contract deal was announced, Serge Bernstein, head of Apex’s high-profile bariatric medicine and weight loss clinic, requested a face-to-face meeting with Brady.

“I have to ask you, did you have access to Fuego’s health care data before you agreed to this deal?” Dr. Bernstein asked Brady.

“I know as a matter of fact that the company keeps excellent records,” Brady said as an opening defense.

“Well, I keep pretty good data on my end as well,” Dr. Bernstein said, as he expertly swiped his digital tablet to bring ups some figures.

“The contract with Fuego says costs can’t deviate more than five percent from projections,” he said.

“That’s correct,” Brady said.

“What would you say if I told you that I am seeing instances of diabetes in that population at about 250 percent of projections?” Dr. Bernstein said.

“I’d be very concerned,” Brady said.

“Then you should be very concerned,” Dr. Bernstein said.

Two weeks later it was the hospital system’s head of orthopedics, Krishnan Gilani, who was sitting in Brady’s office.

“I’ve got a four-week waiting list for initial non-emergency evaluations,” Dr. Gilani said.

“Why?” Brady said.

“Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act? This autoworker population requires a lot of care. Many of them are overweight, which complicates treatment. I’ve also got a threefold increase in overall caseload due to all the previously uninsureds coming on board under the new law,” Dr. Gilani said.

“Wow,” Brady said.

“Wow indeed, Mr. Heller,” Dr. Gilani said. “These are substantially out of whack figures and of great concern,” Dr. Gilani said.

***

Hale and Brady were mostly silent as Hale lined up a putt and the two of them digested the information that the increased number of insureds coming in for treatment was threatening to broadside their direct contracting arrangement.

“It’s the first year of the program,” Hale said after his putt lipped out. “I’m sure the numbers will settle down in years two and three.”

“You’re probably right,” Brady said as he stood over his putt.

“You’re probably right.”

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Part Three

Hale’s view of his in-office television screen is obscured by the bulk of the autoworkers’ union vice president. To the vice president’s left is the union president. Neither of them looks healthy and neither of them looks especially pleased.

Scenario_BestLaidPlans

“Eighteen months ago you sold this hospital deal to us, saying it would be better for the workers and their families. You said we’d get better treatment, cheaper, and better access to treatment,” the union president said.

“I did say that, that’s true,” Hale said

“None of that was true,” the vice president said.

“We got a guy on the line, he twists his back trying to keep an engine compartment bonnet in place. You know how long it takes him to see a back specialist?”

“I don’t…” Hale begins.

“How about five weeks?” the vice president said. “Five weeks!”

“And this is the only hospital we can go to,” the president said.

“I thought health care reform was about choice. You know what? We have no choice,” the union president said.

“Am I in Russia now because I feel like I’m in Russia,” the union vice president says to the union president.

The quarterly meetings between hospital management and the medical team leaders have become so fraught with tension for Brady Heller that they begin to feel like out-of-body experiences.

Dr. Bernstein, Dr. Gilani and Dr. Helen Beers, chair of the cardiac unit, have Brady in their cross-hairs.

“When you brought my practice into your system, I was assured that I could maintain my care standards, that my cost of risk would be reduced by 20 percent and that my revenues would increase by 30 percent,” Dr. Beers begins.

“None of that has happened,” she said, fixing formidable steel blue eyes on Brady through her titanium eyeglass frames.

“Instead I’m seeing delays in payment. I am seeing care standards that I never would have tolerated independently, and I am seeing this across a number of departments, not just my own,” she said.

“We want access to full financial documentation under the terms of our contracts or we are walking, I am not kidding you,” Dr. Bernstein said.

Brady looked from Dr. Bernstein to Dr. Gilani to Dr. Beers. Nowhere was there mercy or understanding.

Hale has a board meeting of his own to attend.

“If we pay them this $3 million that they’re asking for,” the CFO for North America says to Hale.

“On top of the contracted amount,” he says, looking around the table for emphasis, to make sure everyone is getting his point.

“On top of the contracted amount,” he says yet again, unmercifully.

“What assurances do we have that we’re not going to be shelling out another $3 million in six months to a year from now?” the CFO asks.

“I’m not sure that I can offer you any assurances,” Hale says.

“We’re seeing treatment delays and co-morbidities that are beyond the scope of our projections,” he adds.

“I thought this was the best health care money could buy,” the CFO says.

“It may be,” says the North American CEO, who has made a special point to be at this meeting.

“The issue is we didn’t know it would take this much money to buy it.”

The CEO fires Hale Everson that very evening.

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Summary

A sizable regional employer and a large health care system come to grief when their directly contracted health care arrangement is blind-sided by health care reform implementation. The planners of the deal fail to take into account the delays in treatment that large numbers of previously uninsured patients coming into the system will create. Contrary to their promises, standards of health care deteriorate and key stakeholders become alienated.

1. The importance of good data: Data is only actionable if it is good data. Fuego Motors thought it had adequately measured the health care risks inherent in its employee population, but events proved it to be woefully wrong. The advent of the Affordable Care Act is going to impact medical treatment and loss projections are going to have to be altered.

2. Assess your contract: Direct contracts to provide health care services to employers might make a lot of strategic sense, but they can turn into straightjackets if not written with enough flexibility to account for increasing health care costs and the unknowns of health care reform.

3. Medical practice acquisition is fraught with perils: Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to health care business management. Conflicting work cultures and compensation and quality of care expectations can lead to disagreements, litigation or worse if contractual provisions aren’t spelled out adequately.

4. Health care regulation is in conflict: Federal health care reform is not the only wind sweeping the waters. There are numerous federal and state entities regulating health care and their missions and mandates are not in step with each other. Understanding the full lay of the land moving forward is a must.

5. Move with measured steps: There is so much going on in health care practice and regulation right now that the unknowns outnumber the knowns. Look at acquisition targets with more caution than ever before.

6. Be fully transparent: Both sides thought they had all the data they needed. But in the end, their failure to completely share with their data with their respective teams created unpleasant surprises. Being fully candid about all risks is the best strategy in this unsure environment.

The Webinar

The issues covered in this scenario were in part based on the impact of health care reform. This follow-up webinar focused on specific changes to the health care market in the wake of Affordable Care Act implementation and presented actions insureds can take to prepare themselves moving forward.

Download a copy of the slide presentation here.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

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For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.

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This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]