EARLY BIRD Summit Registration Ends Friday; Foxes Overwhelm Hen House; New Action Group VP; Capitol and Summit News…

March 22, 2016

Weekly Buzz: Summit Early Bird Special Ends Friday!

To save $100 on the registration fee for The Action Group’s 9th Annual Employer Leadership Summit on April 22, 2016, take advantage of the early bird rate by Friday. With a theme of Turning Vision into Action, the Summit will feature national and international health care and benefits thought leaders, interactive polling, networking opportunities, sponsored booths, and lively discussions. Please click here to see the full agenda.

Save $100 by taking advantage of the Early Bird Special, through March 25. The event was sold out in 2015!

There are just a few booths left for sponsors. If you or a partner organization would like to sponsor an exhibit, please contact us!


Action Group Annual Employer Benefits Survey Meeting March 30: NEW LOCATION! Brand-new Hyatt Regency Bloomington

ClipboardResponses from The Action Group’s Annual Employer Benefits Survey are being analyzed in preparation for release later this month. Now in its sixth year, this unique Survey offers invaluable strategic and tactical plan design details, along with insight into health plans, prescription drug trends, wellness programs, market innovations, and more. All Survey participants are invited to join us for a meeting on March 30 to go over the results in detail. If you completed the Survey but have not received a meeting invitation, please contact Sue Jesseman. Click here to learn more, including information about the new meeting location.

Please mark your calendar with these key dates:

March 30 (8 a.m.-10:30 a.m.):  Final Report distributed at Survey Results Meeting (for Survey participants only)
Late April:  Final Report mailed to Survey participants unable to attend the meeting


Welcome, Deb Krause! Action Group Vice President

Deb KrauseDeb Krause recently joined The Action Group as vice president. Deb will be responsible for program development, management and administration of Minnesota Bridges to Excellence. She will also be involved in other aspects of The Action Group’s operations, including the Annual Benefits Survey, Community Dialogues, and member meetings.

Most recently, Deb served as a principal at Mercer, and was the director of social responsibility for UnitedHealth Group. She has been an active volunteer leader with the American Cancer Society for over 25 years, currently serving as the chair of its Minnesota State Leadership Board.

“We are thrilled to have Deb on our team,” says Carolyn Pare, Action Group president and CEO. “She brings with her over 25 years of experience in human resources consulting and outsourcing, and in community service activities. Her wealth of experience will be invaluable in representing the collective voice of those who pay the bill for health care – employers, public purchasers, and individuals.”


Meet Featured Summit Presenter, Bud Hammes, Ph.D.

Bud HammesNational Share the ExperienceDr. Bernard (Bud) Hammes will be co-presenting, “It Takes a Village: Community Collaboration Mobilizes Advance Care Planning Efforts,” at The Action Group’s April 22, 2016, Employer Leadership Summit. Dr. Hammes is the director of Medical Humanities and Respecting Choices® for Gundersen Health System headquartered in La Crosse, Wis. He provides educational programs for house staff, medical students, nursing students, and physician assistant students. He also provides in-services and workshops for the medical staff, nursing staff, social workers, and the pastoral care department. Dr. Hammes chairs the Institutional Review Board and Ethics Committee at Gundersen. His work has been primarily focused on improving care for patients with serious illness, resulting in the nationally recognized program on advance care planning: Respecting Choices. He served as editor for the book Having Your Own Say: Getting the Right Care When It Matters Most, which will be on hand at a discounted rate for all Summit attendees.


Periodic Feature: What’s Wrong with this Picture?
The Hen House is Full of Foxes

Prescription Drugs

Last week, Express Scripts released an article about how its indication-specific pricing makes therapy more affordable and accessible for all patients by aligning payment for a drug with the value it delivers to a particular patient population.

This week, Anthem, Inc. filed a lawsuit against Express Scripts, seeking to recover costs for pharmaceutical pricing Anthem says are higher than its competition.

What this Express Scripts/Anthem juxtaposition points out is that there has been a monumental cost transparency breakdown throughout the entire pharmaceutical supply chain.

“Most of the blame for exorbitant drug prices has been placed on pharmaceutical companies,” says Carolyn Pare, Action Group president and CEO. “While it’s a good thing there is mounting pressure for these companies to disclose the development costs and profits of their medicines and the rationale for charging what they do, they are not solely to blame. In an industry so enormously powerful and wealthy, there are countless old, new and emerging organizations jockeying to get a piece of the pie.”

If Anthem – one of the nation’s leading health benefits companies, serving over 72 million people – is allegedly being charged above competitive benchmark pricing, how can the rest of us hope to effect change? The Action Group’s Specialty Pharmacy Action Network is taking on the challenge on behalf of Minnesota payers. Members may access the Specialty Pharmacy Purchaser’s Guides (Phases I and II) by logging in to the  Member Center. To join the Phase III Action Network, contact Linda Davis.


From the Capitol

State CapitolJust under two weeks remain before the first legislative deadline for policy bills, which normally means a heightened level of energy at the Capitol. However, so far the pace of the committee work has not necessarily synced up with the calendar. Especially in the Health and Human Service committees; their time has largely been spent reviewing the recently released supplemental budget proposal from Gov. Dayton and hearing a large number of health care professional licensing bills.

Next week two bills of interest could be heard in the Senate Health Policy committee. The first, SF2582, directs the commissioner of commerce to study ways to stabilize marketplace premiums. The second, SF2506, would allow the commerce department to make adjustments to insurance rating areas across the state. Both these bills stem from Southern Minnesota legislators raising concerns about the disproportionate increases they have seen in their part of the state over the last few years.

While the wheels of the process are turning, whispers are starting to grow in the hallways that even House and Senate priorities of capital bonding, tax, and transportation bills could fall victim to election year politics and not get accomplished. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Stay tuned.


Thought for the Week

“In health care, when either the physician or family are uncertain, we generally start medical treatment. This is the right basic assumption. But at some point every patient has a preference not to have any more treatment…perhaps the benefit is too low or the burden of the treatment is too high. The point of advance care planning is to determine for each individual when that point comes. This not only helps the patient receive the care they do want, but also to avoid the treatment they don’t want. Having these issues discussed in advance is also of great value to the family or other loved ones who now don’t have to carry the full responsibility of making such complex decisions for another.”

Dr. Bud Hammes, Gunderson Health System