Some of the fastest-growing Medicare costs stem from doctors using new medical devices for testing and treatment in their offices, recent data shows.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, four of the top 10 fastest-growing Medicare services from 2012 to 2014 involved new medical devices being used by doctors in their offices, instead of in care settings where they might typically be used.

The appeal to doctors of using these new devices is clear: because of the way Medicare payments are structured, their use can be very lucrative. There is also the convenience factor for both doctors and patients. And in an era when technology offers sophisticated medical innovations small enough for use in doctors’ offices, it’s easy to see how doctors are tempted to use cool new devices.

But the consequences of doctors using more medical devices in their offices is an uptick in Medicare spending, to the tune of $135 million, according to Medicare billing records. While that amount of money is a drop in the bucket of total Medicare spending, if the trend continues, it could result in meaningful increases.

So while in-office testing and treatment has its advantages, it’s a trend that bears watching from a cost-benefit point of view.

To read the article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.

In August 2016, Willis Towers Watson opened a state-of-the-art technology hub and service center in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area city of Tempe, AZ. The center is filling over 400 positions to work on software development and customer service for clients across the country. The number of employees there will increase to 800 over time.

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800 New Tech Jobs Coming To Tempe [ABC Channel 12 News]

New hires in the center include software engineers, quality assurance specialists, product managers, licensed benefits advisors and customer service representatives, all serving employers and employees who use our private exchange solutions.

With the addition of the new center, our Exchange Solutions segment now has more than 5,000 employees in 12 U.S. development and service centers focused on developing and supporting technology-based employee benefit solutions.

According to Gene Wickes, managing director of Exchange Solutions for Willis Towers Watson, the center will help the company achieve three key goals:

  1. Accelerate the development of a consistent and seamless user experience across all exchange offerings by unifying development teams
  1. Accommodate staffing needs as Exchange Solutions scales to handle the high volume of phone calls during enrollment periods—already over 1 million and growing
  1. Continue the significant investments already made in the cutting-edge call center technology and training that continuously improve the efficiency of benefit advisors and customer service representatives

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Learn more about the Phoenix tech hub and service center here and about our national centers here.

Willis Towers Watson this week released a list of the top 10 questions employees should ask their employers about 2017 plan offerings before selecting new plans or renewing existing ones. The questions are based the results of our 21st annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, which quizzed employers on their expected cost increases for 2017 and the actions they plan to take to manage costs while delivering quality care.

According to the survey, employers expect an average increase of 5.0% in total health care costs in 2017. Areas of focus for plan changes are prescription drugs, spouse and dependent coverage, and expensive medical procedures such as specialized surgeries.

In addition to questions about steps employers might have taken to keep costs down, we suggested that employees ask which health plans their preferred doctors and other providers accept; what new benefits–including voluntary benefits–employers might have added; and whether employers have introduced new technologies such as a private benefits exchange to help employees select and manage benefits.

For the complete list of 10 questions, read the press release here.

 

The League of California Cities® announced today that it is working with Willis Towers Watson to give cities more health care options to offer to their retirees through the League of California Cities’ Health Benefits MarketplaceSM (HBM). The HBM launched in August and is a consumer-driven platform that lets cities redesign their approach to medical insurance and gives retirees and active employees coverage choices that align with their individual needs.

League of California Cities partners with OneExchange

League of California Cities Health Benefits Marketplace (HBM) partners with OneExchange to provide Medicare and early retiree medical coverage options to California cities

“California city officials have expressed the need for solutions to the ongoing pressure they face in reducing Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liabilities and providing competitive health benefits to active employees and retirees,” said Chris McKenzie, executive director, League of California Cities. “The Health Benefits Marketplace provides cities with the flexibility to leverage technology to enable greater health care choice as well as help manage OPEB liabilities and rising health care costs by decoupling and unbundling active employee and retiree costs.”

Reducing OPEB liabilities and providing health benefits to active employees and retirees is a challenge for many cities. The HBM provides cities with an efficient tool to leverage technology to enable greater health care choice as well as help manage OPEB liabilities and rising health care costs by allowing cities to handle retiree health benefits separately from health benefits for active employees.

Medicare and early-retiree coverage on the HBM is provided by Willis Towers Watson on its OneExchange™ marketplace. OneExchange lets cities achieve an immediate reduction in retiree health benefit costs, including long-term liability and the administration of health plan management. Retirees enjoy the value and transparency of a robust marketplace, meaningful choice of individual plans, and the expert assistance of licensed benefit advisors to help them choose coverage that fits their needs.

Diversified Benefit Strategies serves as the League’s private exchange consultant.
“The League went through a rigorous selection process to choose its partners for the Health Benefits Marketplace,” said Barry Eyre, lead consultant, Diversified Benefit Strategies. “Willis Towers Watson and Connecture have proven to be excellent partners in the creation of a highly flexible platform designed to meet the needs of public agencies in California.”

To learn more about the League’s Health Benefits Marketplace visit www.cacities.org/hbm and for the full announcement, see League of California Cities Announces New Partners in Offering Improved Health Benefits Options to Local Cities.