Intel Breaks New Ground by Contracting Directly with Kaiser, Providence

The computer chip maker’s new healthcare delivery model has already attracted interest from other self-insured employers and the state and federal government.

One of the largest self-insured employers in Oregon has embarked on a novel approach that bypasses insurance companies. Intel, with 17,500 employees and their 33,000 dependents, is determined to create a healthier work force and, at the same time, keep costs under control. 

This isn’t the first attempt by the computer chip maker to shake up the delivery system. In January 2013, it unveiled a similar project in New Mexico for its 5,400 employees that’s projected to save between $8 and $10 million through 2017.In New Mexico, Intel has a direct contract with Presbyterian Health Services to increase population health, improve the member experience and reduce costs, Tami Graham, Intel’s global benefits design manager, told Modern Healthcare.

Intel’s initiative to slow spending and improve health in New Mexico was very similar to previous efforts, Brian DeVore, director of healthcare strategy and ecosystems, told Modern Healthcare. “I think we've done what most employers have done. We realized that wasn't going to bend the trend.”

What’s Intel’s secret? Choosing a select network of physicians and hospitals from Providence and Kaiser while keeping its eyes on the population who use the majority of healthcare services – the chronically ill – and not losing sight of member satisfaction, Chelsea Hossaini, northwest regional communications manager, told The Lund Report.

Enrollment kicked off last month on this Connected Care High Deductible Health Plan. By the end of November, officials should know how many employees chose this new model or decided to remain with their traditional insurer. Hossaini wouldn’t release that insurer’s name, only saying it was a national company.  

When it comes to out-of-pocket costs, the price point is the same for the national insurer and Connected Care -- $5,000 for a family and $2,100 for an individual. 

But there are several advantages if employees choose the health savings account – individuals will automatically have $500 in that account, while families will receive $1,000 to cover out-of-pocket expenses, with another $250 added if they go through biometric screening and follow-up.  

Kaiser Weighs In

Even though it has other self-funded accounts, this is the first time Kaiser has entered into a direct arrangement with an employer, according to Debbie Karman, communications consultant with Brand Communications. All of Kaiser’s 1,000 plus physicians in Oregon and southwest Washington are participating in Connected Care, along with their colleagues from The Portland Clinic.

Mark Charpentier, Kaiser’s executive leader is in the charge of this plan – until he retires at the end of the year – and Dr. Micah Thorp, associate medical director of business affairs, will continue to oversee the project along with senior healthcare executives.

Kaiser foresees no problem in meeting the quality metrics set into motion by Intel, Karman added.

“As an organization, quality is Kaiser Permanente’s top priority and something that’s part of our DNA,” she said. “In fact, the NCQA recently ranked Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest’s Medicare and commercial health plans number one in quality and performance among health plans in Oregon and Washington. We have well-established processes in place that we’ll apply to the Connected Care program, including tools such as scorecards to regularly measure and report on quality.”

When asked about its contract with Intel, Providence spokesman Gary Walker did not respond.

Intel Spends $600 Million

The company spends about $600 million on employee health care annually, and close to 20 percent of its work force have chronic conditions, which is similar to other large employers, Hossaini said. “We believe Connected Care, with its focus on our top actionable chronic diseases, will focus appropriate care on those that need it the most.

Intel’s project has already drawn interest from other self-insured employers in Oregon as well as the state and federal government, Hossaini said.” We believe transparency of program results will allow other payers to consider direct contracting models and weigh the benefits against their health objectives.+

Intel believes Providence and Kaiser most closely align with the principles of Connected Care; specifically as it relates to: improved customer service, use of evidence-based care, timely access and lower cost, she added. Depending on the program results, additional delivery partners may be added in the future as long as they adhere to the program expectations.

“To put it simply, Intel wants the healthiest workforce,” Hossaini said. “We believe this model focuses care on those who need it most. Additionally, the model is designed to encourage accountability by our delivery partners toward the triple aim of better quality, improved access and lower cost.   By eliminating the middleman, we have improved line of sight into the performance of our delivery partners on all three areas of the triple aim.”

 Nationwide, Intel employs 55,000 workers.

Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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