Top Ten Healthcare Predictions for 2014

20141. With UT falling to Baylor, another 50/50 season for the Dallas Cowboys and a botched HealthCare.gov rollout in 2013, predictions for 2014 have head coach, Jason Garrett and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius joining the ranks of Mack Brown and the unemployed … At least they will have a new health insurance option available to them when they leave their employer.

2. Consumer health devices, mobile and telehealth initiatives will continue to bring about market-based reforms that enable better tracking, monitoring, and care coordination for patients with chronic conditions, who lack access to primary and specialty care or for those payers and providers willing to experiment with technology enabling solutions.

3. Watch for continued M&A activity with health systems similar to Baylor Scott & White or Tenet (Vanguard Health) in other areas of the country. Health care delivery systems will continue to survive and thrive through specialization, mergers, or partnerships that lead to even bigger systems of care.

4. After the elections in November 2014, more carriers will exit the exchange system or become even more selective with their markets and propose double digit premium rate increases as the demographic underpinnings of the exchange fail to capture the 18-34 age group needed for the law to succeed.

5. With less than predicted young people signing up for HealthCare.gov, watch for legislative push to increase penalties for those who did not adhere to the requirements in the law in 2014. There will also be a healthy amount of debate over whether the penalties should be waived in 2014 due to the botched website rollout of healthcare.gov. [The penalty for 2014 is the greater of $95 a year or 1% of adjusted gross income].

6. The political rhetoric of “repeal and replace” will eventually give way to the demands of the American people searching for bipartisan amendments and solutions that target the real enemy in this country … a broken fee for service environment that pays for the reimbursement of treating disease. The government will not shut down in 2014.

7. Employers will continue to adopt tax-efficient plans (such as high deductible health plans with health savings accounts) as new taxes (associated with ACA’s funding) become more transparent to higher wage earners. Private health exchanges will grab the attention of employers interested in defined contribution approaches to funding their benefits.

8. Companies will abandon large incentives associated with traditional first generation wellness offerings (HRA’s, Biometrics, and Wellness Content) in favor of programs that actually show promise of changing behavior to combat the effects of smoking, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes – Pharmacotherapy and surgical options will gain more traction for those who qualify.

9. Watch for the continued proliferation of programs that provide price transparency and consumer advocacy. Consumers and large payers will become more educated around the disparity in pricing among health care facilities and providers. Congress will try and respond with everything from price controls to transparency bills.

10. Congress will not be able to agree to the Medicare cuts that are the underpinnings of the Affordable Care Act. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will run new actuarial calculations that increase the size of the federal deficit beyond what our children can bear.

Disclaimer: I’m one of several members of the Holmes Murphy and ACAP Health leadership team who answer questions online and sometimes for the press. We usually handle questions about corporate insurance, employee benefits, health and prevention. I’m now involved in projects at work involving mHealth, metabolic syndrome, behavior change and technology, so in those areas I’m more likely to make sense based on our clinical guidelines and less likely to conjecture. If I post anything here that you find helpful as you improve upon the employee benefits or health programs at your company, that’s wonderful. But at the end of the day: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and do not represent those of my past or present employer.