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Anthem and Dignity collude with employers, shafting employees

Anthem Blue Cross, Dignity Health Partner to Improve Health, Lower Employer Costs

Business Wire, March 31, 2016

Anthem Blue Cross and Dignity Health, one of the largest hospital systems in the country, have collaborated to introduce a new tiered EPO/PPO plan designed to improve employee health and lower costs through an integrated care management system.

The Premier Tiered EPO/PPO product is designed for self-insured large groups, or employers with more than 101 employees and will launch on May 1, 2016 in Ventura County.

The plans are designed to offer choice and flexibility for employees who are members. They can select from either the Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) that provides the best price with a pre-determined network of high value Dignity Health providers, or a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) which provides access to a wider range of providers to choose from at varying copay and cost share levels. The new product combines the managed care capabilities and expertise of both organizations, with a focus on clinical quality, access and efficiency of health care services.

“As health care providers, we understand the challenges employers face in managing health care access and cost of care,” said Duncan Ross, Dignity Health Vice President, Employer Relations. “This collaboration with Anthem creates a care management model that will help employers reduce costs and provide a better patient experience for their employees, and reflects our mission of service and commitment to our communities.”

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160331006282/en/Anthem-Blue-Cross-Dignity-Health-Partner-Improve

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Comment:

By Don McCanne, M.D.

In announcing their new program that will “improve health and lower employer costs,” Anthem Blue Cross and Dignity Health show us once again that by relying on the private sector to control health care financing, we will continue to see innovations that serve their industries well, but at a cost to patients.

In this case Anthem and Dignity are providing a competitively priced product that will be cheaper for employers, but it will cause employees to choose between either an exclusive provider organization with severe restrictions in choice of providers or a preferred provider organization with moderate restrictions in provider choice but greater exposure to out-of-pocket spending. Either choice is worse for the employees than under more typical employer-sponsored plans of the past.

Under a well-designed single payer system, patients would have choice of their health care professionals and hospitals, and financial barriers would be removed by providing first dollar coverage. Many other features of a single payer system would control costs in a patient-friendly manner.