Thursday, January 10, 2013

UPDATE: Walmart backs state's new idea for covering health costs

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 6:29 AM

Walmart and Gov. Mike Beebe have an announcement coming today on the state's effort to move Medicaid and other insurance to move away from fee-for-service reimbursement for health care. The idea is to address "episodes" of care, reward good outcomes and generally promote a continuum of sound health practices that should reduce costs by producing better general care over time.

It is an occasion to say again that single-payer universal health insurance is the most rational approach to health care for a wealthy, developed nation. If our single payment be a pass-through to Walmart, well, why not? The school model is heading that direction under encouragement from Walton billions. They do know how to supply desired goods cheap.

David Ramsey explained the state's Payment Improvent Plan in detail in our Big Ideas issue earlier. Check it out here if you missed it.

UPDATE: Walmart, which self-insures its employees, will contribute $670,000 to underwrite the effort in Arkansas and participate in other ways in development of the state plan. The news release doesn't say so specifically, but the announcement indicates general favor on the part of the giant retailer in moving toward a system like that the state favors. Walmart's use of a similar system isn't a direct benefit to state costs in Medicaid, for example, but it's a powerful addition, along with Blue Cross and Qualchoice, to pressure building to get all elements of the health system to buy into the idea.

Walmart's news release follows:

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe announced today that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is joining a groundbreaking effort to create a more patient-centered and costefficient health payment system through the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative (APII). Walmart has committed $670,000 to underwrite the ongoing work of the new program, the first of its kind in the United States.

“We have worked for the past two years to bring the public and private sectors together in order to
provide better health care in more cost-efficient ways,” Governor Mike Beebe said. “It’s critical that large, selfinsured companies like Walmart be involved in this complex work that has the potential to serve as a model for the rest of the nation. With more than one million people on its health plan, Walmart’s willingness to step forward and lead in this effort shows the company’s continued pursuit of innovation and the initiative’s potential for the future of health care.”

Now in the first phase of implementation, the Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative is designed to reward physicians, hospitals and other providers who give patients high-quality care at an appropriate cost.

The long-term goal is to build a new and sustainable system that provides the best possible health care for Arkansans through team-based approaches and cost containment. For example, when primary care providers actively encourage patients to use preventive services, patients can manage chronic diseases and reduce future serious illnesses and costly treatments. And, when people receive appropriate follow-up care after hospitalizations, the likelihood of hospital readmissions can be dramatically reduced, which results in better health and lower costs.

As part of the agreement, Walmart will serve on the newly created APII Employer Advisory Council, fund the development and distribution of information to the public that explains how payments are being restructured, and help underwrite an annual statewide tracking report that will evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the project.

“We are very supportive of this work that will reward doctors, hospitals and other providers who offer great care at an appropriate cost,” said Sally Welborn, Walmart senior vice president of benefits. “Governor Beebe is leading a first-of-a-kind payment-reform effort in Arkansas that health experts elsewhere are following closely. We respect the work being done in Arkansas, and we are excited about the opportunity to offer real support to such a meaningful project in our home state.”

Health care costs in the United States are projected to increase 6.3 percent in 2013. The average deductible for an individual on health plans in the U.S. increased nearly 9 percent last year.

“Our health care system is at a tipping point brought on by rising costs, an increasingly unhealthy population and a fragmented system of care,” said Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joe Thompson. “We need all hands on deck if we are to restructure the health care system to better meet the needs of our citizens. Private companies pay for a large portion of our health care costs. So, it is very encouraging to have an organization of Walmart’s stature join this important effort.

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