Event Roundup: Karen Ignagni on Post-Election Health Care & Innovation Opportunities

Last month, Karen Ignagni, EmblemHealth President and CEO, participated in several live and televised discussions with policymakers, academics and executives on the post-election health care landscape and opportunities for innovation and collaboration.


On November 16, Ignagni, along with Scott Paul, President, Alliance for American Manufacturing, and Maya MacGunieas, President, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, discussed the results of the presidential election and the new Administration’s potential key policy initiatives for the AtlanticLIVE panel, “What to Expect from Washington.” Infrastructure was identified as President-elect Trump’s first likely economic priority, but health care quickly followed. “We’re about to enter one of the largest health policy discussions that has happened in ten years,” Ignagni predicted. “The same three issues that were relevant then will be relevant again: cost, access and quality.” The panelists agreed that the election results reflected a call from the middle class to address the issues affecting them. Ignagni said the first big test will be assuring 20 million people that they will not lose their coverage. “Balancing all of those things will be the challenge that many thoughtful people on both sides of the aisle will have to tackle,” she said.

Following the Atlantic panel, Ignagni joined Dr. Dave Chokshi, Chief Population Health Officer, OneCity Health, Erica Coe, Partner, McKinsey & Company and New York University (NYU) professor and former New York State Health Foundation CEO Dr. James Knickman in a discussion on post-election health care, moderated by NYU Wagner’s Dr. Thomas D’Aunno.  “In 2017, the policy conversation will morph from continuity of care to continuity of coverage,” said Ignagni, as policymakers gear up for formula fights over the distribution of federal health care funding. President-elect Trump has proposed reengineering Medicaid funding through block grants, which would establish an absolute limit on federal spending. “Block grants set a fixed contribution at a certain point in time, but the problem is, what if that changes?” said Ignagni, citing demographic and socioeconomic factors. “A number of Republicans are more likely to look at per capita limits on spending,” which would give states more flexibility, she predicted. “It’s an important part of the 2017 health care discussion,” Dr. Chokshi added. “Medicaid is a program that saves lives by improving access to care,” he said. In her remarks, Coe pointed to the lack of options on the health care exchanges in many states, citing recent findings that one in five consumers only have access to one carrier on the exchange. Looking ahead to 2017, “a foundational question is whether politics will allow for the continuation of federally-hosted exchanges,” Ignagni said, predicting a shift to state-run exchanges. Dr. Chokshi agreed, adding, “over the next four years, health care innovation will be happening at the local and state level.”

In a November 21 appearance on Columbia University’s online television series, Healthcare in the Round, Ignagni expanded on opportunities to innovate at the local level through population health, value-based care and personalized benefits. “In health care, we’ve talked a lot about personalized medicine, but very little about personalized benefits,” Ignagni explained, adding that an insurer’s benefits must pass the “kitchen table test” in an increasingly business-to-consumer market. “The challenge right now is to preserve health care affordability and make it sustainable for members,” she added. “The insurance industry needs to do what we did with the Affordable Care Act in 2009: come to the table with solutions.”

These solutions will require innovative partnerships between health care and technology companies, which is exactly what the 2016 HITLAB Innovators Summit aims to do. The New York summit is a three-day event that brings together thought leaders in health technology to discuss the digital opportunities and challenges that face organizations today. Invited to deliver opening remarks for the summit’s second day, Ignagni spoke to how nonprofit health payers can partner with like-minded institutions to influence and positively transform members’ health. “Insurers see patients from every angle,” explained Ignagni. “And we can monitor and support them with agile, flexible technology platforms.” She noted that building systems and tracking big data isn’t the sole solution in transforming how payers interact with patients or members. To successfully achieve population health management and deliver personalized medicine, health care institutions have to improve communication with patients and providers. “We believe in narrowcasting: cutting through the noise and addressing patients individually.” With that, new health innovations bring a plethora of opportunities for developers to improve the integration of behavioral health, social services, care management, consumer engagement and customer experience. Ignagni closed with a call-to-action for further discussion: “At EmblemHealth, we’re a company that wants to hear what health technology developers have to offer.”

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