Twenty major companies, including American Express, Verizon, Coca-Cola and HCA have joined the newly-launched Health Transformation Alliance to combine data on the population health of their employees, and potentially flex their muscle with insurance companies and big pharma, according to Tevi Troy, president of the American Health Policy Institute.
Health benefit costs are just part of the initiative, according to Troy, a former Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary and White House Aide.
"I would say it's more to handle the issue of spiraling costs," Troy said Friday. "In the future, the current rates of growth are unsustainable. They're really worried about what this is doing to co-pays, premiums and deductibles."
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The first step is gathering data on the population health of the employees of the 20 firms. Each company has pledged to contribute their data for analysis, according to the story first reported in the Wall Street Journal.
"What we find will be used to make smarter and better decisions. This is going to give them more direction," Troy said. "They want to highlight some of the challenges they're facing. They want to look at best practices, and try to find a better path.
They will have leverage but it's not just about cost, it's about better health, better data on four million lives."
Currently, the companies have separate insurance plans. There is no current goal to have all come under an umbrella policy, according to Troy.
"I don't know that some day they're will be one big plan for 20 companies," he said. "I'm not sure we'll ever be at that step. It will give them opportunities to join in various initiatives. That's within the model."
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What is planned is a pharmaceutical initiative in 2017 to look at prescription drug costs in plans, he said. While employers are not buying the drugs through the supply chain they're paying for them, Troy said.
The Health Transformation Alliance was conceived by the nonprofit American Health Policy Institute with the help of the companies, but the two entities remain separate, according to Troy, who said what's been interesting for him has been to see a think tank idea come to fruition.
"It's really exciting," Troy said. "This is the official launch."
The 20 companies include: American Express, American Water, BNSF Railway Co., Brunswick Corp., Caterpillar Inc., Coca-Cola Co., E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., HCA Inc., Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., IBM Corp., Ingersoll-Rand, International Paper Co., Lincoln Financial Group, Macy's Inc., Marriott International Inc., NextEra Energy Inc., Pitney Bowes Inc., Shell Oil Co., Verizon Communications Inc., Weyerhaeuser Co.