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CPBJ 2016 Health Care Symposium: 3 things we learned

Several leaders shared views on the opioid crisis, cyber crime and insurance coverage at this month’s symposium in Harrisburg.

Fewer people than expected are buying insurance coverage in the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, according to data presented by a consultant from New York-based Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Earlier surges in prescriptions for pain medication fueled today’s epidemic of opioid pain pill and heroin abuse, said Dr. Carrie L. DeLone, medical director for the medical group at Camp Hill-based Holy Spirit – A Geisinger Affiliate.

Hacking is a major issue in health care, according to Devin J. Chwastyk, an attorney at Harrisburg-based McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC.

These were some of the issues covered this week at the Business Journal’s 2016 Health Care Symposium, which was sponsored by health care organizations throughout the region.

Panel discussions at the event, held July 19 in Harrisburg, included an update on the health insurance exchanges, advice on cyber security, a discussion of the opioid epidemic and the scoop on wearable devices in health care.

Here are three interesting facts from the 2016 Health Care Symposium:

Competition dropping under the ACA

The Congressional Budget Office’s earliest predictions were that, by 2016, 24 million Americans would be enrolled in health plans through the Affordable Care Act. The count is currently at 12.7 million, said Gregory Scott, U.S. health plans leader for Deloitte. He delivered a keynote address at the symposium.

At the same time, competition among insurers is waning. Many are struggling to make a profit on ACA health plans, and some insurers are dropping out of the exchanges, Scott said.

Local insurance company Highmark, Inc. has been transparent about its ACA struggles.

Hacking in health care

Chwastyk and co-panelist Andrew J. Ward, retired partner at New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said that as quickly as health care organizations are developing safety nets to protect information, hackers are finding ways to break them down.

Providers should have people who can respond from anywhere and at any time to security breaches, and ensure they have adequate insurance coverage for cyber attacks.

And they should make sure employees hold tight to mobile devices containing confidential information.

Chwastyk said that roughly 17,000 laptops were lost last year at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Drug overdoses on the rise

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that 3,300 Pennsylvania residents died from overdoses in 2015, according to Gary Tennis, secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

A major contributor to the epidemic is the over-prescribing of opioid pain pills, a trend that began in the 1990s and early 2000s.

State and federal officials have been working with doctors and others to update prescription practices.

This month Pennsylvania officials adopted several new guidelines for physicians to follow when prescribing opioid pain medication.

Insurers, such as Highmark, are also creating programs to combat opioid addiction before it starts. Dr. Marylou Buyse, senior medical director at Highmark, described two of those programs at the symposium.

The first one aims to detect patients who might be addicted to opioid pain pills by limiting them to using only one pharmacy. The other program Highmark is preparing to launch will monitor physician prescribing habits within the Highmark network.

Lenay Ruhl

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