On June 12th 2017, Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) held its 6th Annual Conference, Behind the Scenes in Healthcare: Your Backstage Pass. Over 330 individuals attended from various industries to hear healthcare insiders and employer thought leaders discuss issues impacting the industry that benefits leaders don’t often hear – or are just not privy to.

Kavita Patel, MD, MS, FACP, Nonresident Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Internist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, opened the conference with her presentation, “Behind the Scenes in Health Policy – What’s in Store for the Next Four Years.” Dr. Patel, who served as the Director of Policy during the Obama administration, offered insight on the transforming landscape of healthcare. With potential passage of the American Healthcare Act, jurisdictional power will be shifted away from the federal government to the state governments. New emerging leadership as will also influence the direction American healthcare will take. Dr. Patel emphasized that in this time of change, employer leaders need to let their voices be heard to maintain a stable employer market and work collaboratively with partners to improve healthcare.

Next, a panel of executives from Time Warner, EmpiRx Health, Pfizer Inc., and Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. participated in the discussion, “Taking the Lid off the Bottle – How Drugs are Priced and Paid For”. Panelists addressed both employees’ frustration when trying to understand sudden changes in drugs and employers’ struggles with not only understanding, but explaining, these changes to their employees. A myriad of reasons such as manufacturer pricing, differing benefits structures, and the relationship between PBMs and manufacturers influence drug pricing.

After a short networking break, a panel of physician leaders from Mount Sinai ACO, Park Avenue Medical Professionals, and Hofstra North Shore—LIJ School of Medicine In NY, participated in the session, “Clued in or Clueless? Physicians Share What They Know – And Don’t Know – About How the System Works.”  The panelists agreed that most physicians don’t know much about the business behind the healthcare system, but that physicians are cognizant of the ratings they receive from health plans.

Following lunch, Artemis Health, Castlight Health, and PinnacleCare pitched their organization’s services to address issues in healthcare, such as consolidating health data into one space, promoting personalized healthcare, and understanding how to avoid falling into the pattern of bad care.

Next, four concurrent breakout sessions were held.

In “Anatomy of Healthcare Costs – Breaking the Code(s) for Employers”, representatives from SCIO Health Analytics, Anthem, and Atlantic Health emphasized the importance of employers providing their employees with transparency, open communication, and keeping on top of data for drug pricing.   Panelists agreed that, at the end of the day, it’s up to employers to make the healthcare system navigable for employees.

“What’s the Deal? Inside Health Plan-Provider Contract Negotiations” featured panelists from NYU Langone Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, and Aetna. This session revealed that the negotiation process between health plans and providers has evolved into a partnership, one in which both parties work together towards value-based care and payment arrangements. 

“Creating an Employee-centric Benefits Approach: A Look Inside Pfizer’s Cancer Care ‘Huddle, ” , led by professionals from Pfizer and NEBGH, addressed the question of how to bring together employers benefits departments and vendors in a sustainable way to support employees and facilitate care in the delivery system. Panelists discussed how biweekly “huddle” meetings bring together multiple vendors to create    improved experiences for employees.

In “Solving the Engagement Enigma,” executives from Evive Health LLC and Optum highlighted the need to engage spouses of employees as part of effective engagement strategies. Panelists also discussed how to reach employees who may not be seen at the worksite on a regular basis. Key takeaways included developing better communications programs and implementing the use of phone applications.

Following a networking break, the closing panel discussion, “Ten Common Healthcare Mistakes Employers Make – And How to Fix Them,” included panelists from Cigna, Heritage Medical Systems, USI Insurance Services, and Aon Hewitt. These experts advised employers to review benefits regularly to update and improve them, and emphasized that healthcare transformation takes time, so it’s important to allow new initiatives, such as those that are value based, work for a few years rather than abandoning them after a short period of time. Employers were also encouraged to promote transparency, take time to effectively articulate a strategy, and hold healthcare plans accountable for performance.