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High Deductibles High Risks?

Employers continue to migrate toward high deductible health plans, but as more employers adopt this strategy and more employees are covered in these plans, there is an increased need to focus on avoiding unintended consequences such as forgoing needed care.

Check out this white paper from Abbvie which describes the current environment for high deductible plans, the potential challenges, and recommendations on steps employers should take to be sure these plans are effective.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Sunday, February 26, 2017

MBGH CEO Culture of Health Initiative Receives National Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 16, 2016

Contact: Bailey Jacobs, U.S. Chamber Foundation, 202-463-57              

Memphis Business Group on Health Named a Winner of the Inaugural Health Means Business Healthy10 Awards  

February 16, 2017—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Health Means Business campaign named Memphis Business Group on Health one of the 10 winners of the inaugural Healthy 10 Awards, in the category of workforce health.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, and Claire Revels Shapiro, Director of Human Resources at Rhodes College and President of the MBGH Board of Directos, accepted the award. "MBGH accepts this award on behalf of the 64 employers that are creating cultures of health at the workplace and changing what it means to work in Memphis. This initiative, which also supports Healthy Shelby and Healthier Tennessee, results in health for our employees, success for our organizations, and, through our collective action, economic development for Memphis" said Travis in a pre-taped acceptance speech. Shapiro was at the awards ceremony to accept on behalf of MBGH.

The Health Means Business ‘Healthy10 Awards’ were created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a way to honor ten outstanding business-led initiatives or cross-sector collaborations between local businesses and traditional and non-traditional partners to improve community wellness and access to economic opportunity. 

"The Memphis Business Group on Health’s CEO Culture of Health initiative helps empower business leaders to be health champions,” said Marc DeCourcey, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “Business leadership is vital to creating a culture of health and it’s an honor to recognize this program."

The Chamber Foundation announced the winners of the Healthy10 Awards on February 16 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the awards program here.

# # #

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness. We educate the public on the conditions necessary for business and communities to thrive, how business positively impacts communities, and emerging issues and creative solutions that will shape the future.

The U.S .Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, February 16, 2017

MBGH Joins the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions' Recommendations for Changing the ACA

Memphis Business Group on Health has joined with the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions (formerly National Buisness Coalition Health) calling upon the Trump Administration and US Congress to adopt specific principles as they consider "repeal and replace" or  even "repair". 

These principles aim to continue the advancements achieved through the ACA for new payment models moving from volume to value, increased transparency of quality and safety for providers, continued emphasis on research to identify most effective treatment, and support for employer-sponsored coverage including tax exclusion of benefits, flexibiity and innovation.

Click here to read the piece.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, serves on the Board of Governors of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MBGH and HealthCare 21 Awarded National Grant to Support Adoption of New Payment Models

Memphis Business Group on Health and HealthCare 21 Business Coalition Awarded Grant for Innovative Practices in Healthcare Payment Reform 

MBGH and HC21 are among the first four coalition projects to be awarded grants by the Purchaser Value Network to support our work across Tennessee to advance the adoption of new value-based payment models among both employers and providers. Key partners in our project include the State of Tennessee Health Care Innovation Initaitive, State of Tennessee Employee Benefit Administration, Cigna, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, self-insured employer members of MBGH and HC21, and other providers. 

The Purchaser Value Network has awarded initial matching grants, up to $50,000 each, to non-profit regional business coalitions implementing innovative practices in value-based purchasing and healthcare payment reform.*

Health Care 21 Business Coalition and Memphis Business Group on Health were awarded $37,500 to explore models of payment reform with two employers to align with current state and national efforts in 2018.  

Colorado Business Group on Health was awarded $50,000, to promote advanced primary care by integrating the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) incentives, a national advanced primary care medical home model to strengthen primary care through regionally-based multi-payer payment reform and care delivery transformation. Aligning the commercial and governmental purchasers in this market will help increase quality improvement, according to physician practices across the state.

Florida Health Care Coalition received $50,000, to finish developing and promoting a risk-stratified bundled payment for cardiac care, a project started under a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation grant. This initiative aligns commercial and governmental cardiac purchasing strategies across the Florida market.  

Northeast Business Group on Health received $50,000 to convene employers, health plans and a hospital system to develop a multi-stakeholder pilot intervention to reduce C-sections in the state. Intervention methodologies will include a bundled payment for hospital-based maternity care or a blended case rate for vaginal and C-section deliveries.  

Additional grants will be awarded throughout the year to further support initiatives in areas such as maternity care payment redesign, accountable care organizations, prescription drug value-based purchasing initiatives, and redesigning complex care management to reduce emergency department usage.

*Funding provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation


The Purchaser Value Network, an initiative of the Pacific Business Group on Health, aims to accelerate the adoption of high value healthcare delivery and payment models through policy advocacy, education and purchaser engagement. The network seeks to inject purchaser perspectives and innovative best practices into federal and state policy decision making, educate employers about value-based purchasing and advocacy opportunities, and aligns three critical purchaser sectors—private employers, states, and the federal government—around evidence-based practices. For more information, visit

Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, is a member of the Purchaser Value Network national Advisory Committee.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 7, 2017

RivalHealth CEO, Pete Durand, to Keynote MBGH Annual Awards Luncheon

Pete Durand, CEO of RivalHealth, will keynote MBGH's Annual Awards Luncheon on April 27, 2017 11:30-1:00 at Rhodes College. He will also sit in on our CEO Culture of Health Learning Session at 10:00 that morning. 

Fitness, it's what Pete does. A recovering engineer, MBA and somewhat scarred/successful entrepreneur, he decided that pouring passion into your career makes sense only if you REALLY believe in what you do.

Eight years ago Pete started RivalHealth, a company focused on delivering fully customized and individual exercise/nutrition (=fitness) solutions to individuals, companies, schools and universities. RivalHealth is now in all 50 states, 12 countries and 66 languages.

A successful corporate executive and entrepreneur at companies like Kimberly Clark, Eaton and General Electric, Pete was inspired to start RivalHealth because of the powerful impact proper fitness and nutrition can have on all walks of life. He is an accomplished triathlete, exercise junkie, nutrition nut and NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Pete holds a BS in Industrial Engineering, an MBA and is a former Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Carolinas.

Pete is an inspiration to both employers and employees and his passion shows! You don't want to miss this opportunity to be uplifted by his message and head back to work ready to implement some of his practical, yet impactful, suggestions.

Click here to add the CEO Culture of Health Learning Session on your calendar and here to add the Annual Awards Luncheon. Click download event to get calendar appointment. Registration for both events will start in March.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Rankings of Clinical Preventive Services Released

HealthPartners Institute and the National Commission on Prevention Priorities (NCPP)  announced the 2017 update of their Ranking of Clinical Preventive Services, which compares 28 of the most cost-effective and life-saving evidence-based interventions.

Three of the most cost-effective and life saving conversations a clinician can have with a patient include:

Advising adults to quit smoking;

Encouraging children and teens to not start smoking; and

Getting vaccines

This effort, a major initiative in the NCPP's Prevention Priorities work, demonstrates the value of evidence in supporting a healthier nation.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, Memphis Business Group on Health CEO, is a commission member of NPCC.

Click here to read more and learn about the NCPP.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, January 9, 2017

New Preventive Services for Women Regulations in 2017

From "On December 20, 2016, the Health Resources and Services Administration updated the preventive services for women by accepting the recommendations of the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative, convened by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and comprised of representatives of national groups with expertise in women’s health. The committee reaffirmed the services for women that were recommended in 2011 and added one new one for mammography."

"Table 1 summarizes all of the preventive services affecting women recommended by these three committees that the ACA requires plans to cover without cost sharing."

Click here to read the full article including highlights of the updated reqguirements.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, January 4, 2017

MBGH Hospital Safety Grade Facebook Ad Reaches 8,000 Memphians!

To reach more Memphis-area residents to help them learn about the Hospitals Safety Grade and see results for local hospitals, MBGH ran an ad on Facebook for a week last fall. Click here to read about Memphis hospital grades.

The results were impressive with 7,920 people reached and 696 engaging with the post by clicking on the map or going to the Hospital Safety Grade website for more information.

Although it makes sense, it was interesting to note that as people aged they were more likely to engage with the post with almost 50% (311) of those that engaged being age 55-64. This age group has a higher likelihood of being hospitalized than those under age 55.

And, in a similar finding, 91% (634) of those that engaged were female. We all know that women are the most engaged in their family's health.

Other findings include:

91% of post engagements were from smart phones

70% of the clicks to the website occurred Friday-Sunday

These findings help us define the key audience for the Hospital Safety Score and social media provides us a flexible, customizable platform to reach that audience.

You can use the results of this ad to help you plan how to best reach your employees with the Hospital Safety Grade information. You can also use similar analyses to better understand how employees are engaged with your other health and health benefit communications. Refresh your memory on the employee segmentation recommendations that Benz Consulting made at our 2016 Annual Conference here. Download the presentations and see the Benz presentation at page 142.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How NQF Matters in Memphis

From the desk of Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO, Memphis Business Group on Health 

As announced in early December 2016, I am honored to have been elected to the Board of Directors of the National Quality Forum (NQF).

Do you know how much the work of NQF matters in Memphis? For example:

  • Today, over 300 NQF-endorsed measures are used in more than 20 federal programs. These measures and programs help determine the care that Memphis-area Medicare participants receive and how and how much our Memphis hospitals and physicians get paid by Medicare.
  • Regional health plans in Tennessee, such as BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna, tend to follow Medicare's lead in both coverage and payment approaches.
  • The measures used in the Hospital Safety Grade and Leapfrog Hospital Survey for Memphis-area hospitals are NQF-endorsed.
  • Tennessee health plans use NQF-endorsed measures to evaluate the quality of their networks and in their new payment models.

And, because of NQF, we can compare the quality and cost of care we have here in Memphis to other communities across the country since each community is using the same measures and data to evaluate care. Through the NQF we have standardized our measures so we can track our own improvements over time and identify best practices both within Memphis and elsewhere to rapidly advance care delivery.

Since 1997, MBGH has focused on working toward and advancing value-based purchasing in the greater-Memphis market. We defined value-based purchasing as a function of health status/outcomes, patient experience, and cost. Right away we were challenged with the fact that although employers knew their costs, but they had no idea what they were getting in terms of the health status/outcomes for their employees or the experience their employees were having as they navigated the healthcare delivery system.

We were not alone in lacking this information and understanding. The nation as a whole only had crude ways of evaluating the quality and experience of care using such measures as mortality, length of stay, and cost per stay/day in the hospital. Unfortunately, these early measures didn’t really help us understand the underlying issues that were driving these results, nor did they provide information upon which we could make purchasing decisions or help employees select providers.

Fast forward 20 years later to 2017 and we are now operating in a very different world. In fact, there are many who say we have too much information now! So, how do we decide what measures to use and when to use them?

The National Quality Forum (NQF) was established to help us answer these questions. Through it’s measure endorsement process, NQF:

Calls for measures that matter for health/well-being; prevention/treatment of leading causes of mortality; person and family-centered care; effective communication and care coordination; patient safety; and affordable care. 

Conducts detailed reviews of proposed measures through standing committees to ensure they reflect sound science, will be useful to providers and patients, and will make a difference in improving quality. 

Seeks public comment and input from any interested party during the decision-making process.

Provides oversight of committee decisions through the Consensus Standards Approval Committee which helps ensure consistency across standing committees and alignment with overall NQF goals.

Includes an appeals process through an Appeals Board.

I have always thought it was important to be actively involved in national policies that have such a significant impact on the Memphis community. After all, if we don’t get involved, we may find that the measures and the quality and cost that they drive are not in our best interest. I am often the only Southerner on a committee; I am often one of only a few employer/purchaser representatives on a committee; I am often one of only a few market-focused (vs. nationally or institutionally-focused) representatives on a committee. All of these voices need to be heard during the decision-making process. And, because I am involved, I have a much deeper understanding for these measures that are critical to the quality, cost, and payment right here in Memphis.

Please let me know if you have any questions about NQF. I am also available to speak with you and your senior leadership about NQF and the role it plays in measurement and federal programs. The more we understand and the more active we are, the better this process will be for us in Memphis.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, January 3, 2017

MBGH CEO Elected to National Quality Forum Board of Directors

On December 3, 2016, The National Quality Forum (NQF) announced the appointment of Cristie Upshaw Travis, chief executive officer of the Memphis Business Group on Health, as well as two other new members to its Board of Directors:

  • Jonathan Perlin, MD, PhD, president of clinical services and chief medical officer of HCA; and
  • Jack Resneck, MD, professor and vice chair of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco.

According to Travis, "I am honored to be selected to serve alongside national health, healthcare, consumer, purchaser, and policy leaders as the National Quality Forum continues our commitment to lead collaboration to improve health and healthcare through measurement and quality initiatives".

In addition to serving on the NQF Board of Directors, Travis co-chairs the NQF All Cause Admissions/Readmissions Standing Committee and its Measures Application Partnership Hospital Workgroup, which advises CMS on measures for use in federal programs. She also served as Vice Chair and Chair of NQF's Consensus Standards Approval Committee.

Composed of 21 members, the NQF Board provides organizational guidance on strategic and policy issues. Representatives include key public- and private-sector leaders who represent a wide range of major stakeholders in America’s healthcare system, including consumers and those who purchase healthcare on their behalf.

Other NQF Board members include:

  • Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH (Chair), America’s Essential Hospitals
  • James Chase, MHA (Vice Chair), Minnesota Community Measurement
  • Lawrence M. Becker (Treasurer), Xerox Corporation (retired)
  • Andrew B. Bindman, MD, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
    Designee: Nancy J. Wilson, MD, MPH
  • Carol Cronin, Informed Patient Institute
  • Leonardo Cuello, JD, National Health Law Program
  • Helen Darling, MA, National Quality Forum
  • Elizabeth Fowler, PhD, JD, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems, Inc.
  • Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    Designee: Peter A. Briss, MD, MPH
  • William Kramer, Pacific Business Group on Health
  • James Macrae, MA, MPP, Health Resources & Services Administration
    Designee: Deborah Parham Hopson, PhD, RN
  • Carolyn Pare, Minnesota Health Action Group
  • Laurel Pickering, MPH, Northeast Business Group on Health
  • Louise Probst, St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition
  • Lewis Sandy, MD, UnitedHealth Group
  • David Shahian, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Quality and Safety
  • Andy Slavitt, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
    Designee: Kate Goodrich, MD
  • Kirsten Sloan, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network


Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lots of Movement in Memphis Fall 2016 Hospital Safety Grades

We saw quite a bit of movement in the fall 2016 Hospital Safety Grades (formerly Hospital Safety Score) for Memphis-area hospitals:

Several hospitals raised their scores:

  • Baptist Collierville moved from a C to a B
  • Baptist Desoto moved from a C to a B
  • Methodist Germantown moved from a C to a B
  • Regional One Health moved from a D to a C

Unfortuantely, Saint Francis Memphis moved down from an A to a B and Methodist University moved down from a B to a C.

Methodist Olive Branch received it's first grade and it was an A. They join Saint Francis Bartlett as our Memphis-area A hospitals.

Methodist Olive Branch A

Saint Francis Bartlett     A

Baptist Collierville           B

Baptist DeSoto                B

Methodist Germantown   B

Saint Francis Memphis   B

Baptist Memphis           C

Methodist North             C

Methodist South             C

Methodist University       C

Regional One Health      C








Check out for details on these scores as well as those for 2,633 hospitals

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How Might Health Reform Change Under President-Elect Trump?

If you are like me, you are now coming out from under the campaign and the election itself and beginning to think about the implications of the results for health reform and employer-sponsored health benefits.

Here are some articles that will help you begin to identify the key issues and strategies that are likely to emerge.

Obamacare Replacement Might Look Familiar, Kaiser Health News

Where President-Elect Donald J. Trump Stands on Six Healthcare Issues, Kaiser Family Foundation 

What Bipartisan Opportunities Will the Next Congress and President Have to Improve Health Policy, Health Affairs

Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump's Health Proposal (as of September 2016), Commonwealth Fund

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, November 10, 2016

MBGH Receives the National Alliance Member Leadership Award

WASHINGTON – Sept. 29, 2016 – The Memphis Business Group on Health received the Member Leadership Award at the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions* (National Alliance) annual conference. The recipient was recognized for their efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare delivery system and health of employees and communities.

(*Formerly the National Business Coalition on Health)

The Memphis Business Group on Health, under the leadership of CEO Cristie Upshaw Travis, has long played a critical role in encouraging and assisting Memphis-area employers to not only create a culture of health within their organizations, but to implement programs that will more broadly help the entire community. The coalition works with Tennessee hospitals, physicians, health plans, community and government leaders to drive healthcare delivery system reform.

MBGH sponsors the CEO Culture of Health initiative with 64 organizations in the Memphis-area currently participating and was a founding member of the Common Table Health Alliance (formerly Healthy Memphis Common Table) as well as Healthy Shelby. National efforts include Travis serving on the National Alliance board; as a board member and Regional Roll-out Leader for The Leapfrog Group, a hospital patient-safety organization; and co-chair of committees of the National Quality Forum, the multi-stakeholder, consensus-building organization that leads national collaboration to improve health and healthcare quality through measurement.

“Memphis Business Group on Health is a proud member of the National Alliance, learning from our sister coalitions and helping where we can to share our experience and expertise to assist purchasers nationally,” said Travis. “We are honored to be recognized for our 31 years of work to create, support and sustain a culture of health at the workplace for our members and their families.”

The National Alliance’s Member Leadership Award is sponsored by Merck.

About the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions

The National Alliance is a nonprofit network of business health coalitions, representing more than 12,000 purchasers and 41 million Americans. Its members are dedicated to driving innovation, health and value through the collective action of public and private purchasers. The organization seeks to accelerate the nation’s progress toward safe, efficient, high-quality health care and the improved health status of the American population.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, October 6, 2016

See Why Cristie Thinks You Should Attend the August 18 Conference

Click here to learn more and register

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, July 12, 2016

MBGH 2016 Conference Update: More Breakout Sessions Announced

Click here to register for MBGH's August 18, 2016 Annual Conference "Rethink Employee Engagement to Drive Better Results". Early registration ends July 10 and prices increase July 11.

Three more breakout sessions will be offered at 10:45. Start thinking now about which one you will attend. They are all excellent and you can only attend one! 

ReThink: The Essential Role of Benefits Communication in Employee Engagement

Brandon Moore, Strategic Accounts Manager, Benz Communications

The evidence is clear that employees value their health benefits and these benefits contribute to employee recruitment, retention, and loyalty. In this session, learn how to develop and implement an employee communication strategy that reinforces the value of these benefits by communicating year-round; using multiple channels to reach employees; integrating data to identify key goals; and targeting messages to drive action.   

ReThink: Consumerism: Aligning Employees & Employers

Tom Parry, President, Integrated Benefits Institute

Many employers are moving to consumer directed health plans (CDHPs) to better manage costs of health benefit plans. However, decisions employees make in these plans impact not only health benefit costs, but also short-term and long-term disability and productivity. In this session, learn how to consider total cost; better understand how employees behave in CDHPs; and steps two employers have taken to maximize employee engagement and health improvements in their CDHPs.

ReThink: Health Care Providers are Engaging Patients Differently Too!

Representatives from Baptist Memorial Health Care, Methodist Healthcare, Regional One, Saint Francis Healthcare

For many of the same reasons employers are rethinking how they engage employees in their health and wellness programs, health care providers are also redesigning how they provide care and engage patients in their own health and health care. This session will highlight new delivery models being implemented by Baptist, Methodist, Regional One, and Saint Francis and the implications of these new approaches for your employee’s health and wellness and the effectiveness of your health benefit plans.

Learn about our Keynote Speakers here

Learn about our 9:30 Breakout Sessions here

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, July 5, 2016

MBGH 2016 Conference Update: First Three Breakout Sessions Announced!

Click here to register for our 2016 Wellness & Health Benefits Conference "Rethink Employee Engagement to Drive Better Results" on August 18, 2016!

You will get to attend one of the following 9:30 breakout sessions. Start thinking about it now because they are all excellent and it will be a tough choice!

ReThink: Full Engagement: Harnessing the Power of Participation

Barbara McClanahan, PhD, EdD, Associate Professor, University of Memphis Health Promotion Program

Employees are often the most powerful advantage an organization has. However, the expertise, talents, insights, and creativity brought by individuals is quickly lost if the employee is not fully engaged with the organization. This interactive, audience participation session highlights the importance of participatory management practices and offers specific strategies to enhance your employee engagement in health benefits and wellness programs.

ReThink: Putting the Power Where it Belongs: With Employees

Cameron Brackett, Executive Director, MidSouth eHealth Alliance

Dinesh Sheth, Founder & CEO, Green Circle Health

The health care delivery system, and many benefits programs, make it easy for employees to be passive participants because the “power” is vested in the providers and programs. Employees become reactive vs. proactive managers of their own health. This session explores how technology can put the employee in charge of their own health information to track it, improve it, and share it with whom they choose, moving them from passive participants to active managers of health.

ReThink: Personalized Support When Your Employees Need it Most

John Dyson, Director of Human Resources, Enterprise Health Care, FedEx Services

David Hines, CEO, Consumer Medical

One-size fits all benefit and wellness programs fail to recognize that employees have specific health needs at different times throughout their lives. Online decision-support and outbound care management and coaching are often designed to meet the broadest set of needs and, therefore, may not effectively engage employees. This session highlights the benefits of offering personalized support for your employees and the impact on costs, quality of care, and employee satisfaction. Federal Express will share why they decided to offer such a program and the difference it has made for their employees and their benefit program performance. 

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, June 13, 2016

Keynote Speakers Announced for MBGH 2016 Wellness & Health Benefit Conference

Click here to register now to come "Rethink Employee Engagement to Drive Better Results" and hear from these national experts on why you must rethink your approach and which strategies work to engage employees and reduce health benefit cost trend!

Shelly Wolff, Health and Workforce Effectiveness Leader and a senior consultant in Willis Towers Watson's New York City office, kicks off the conference addressing the very real disconnect between the health and wellness benefits employers offer and employee perspectives of these same benefits. As Shelly puts it, "While the hot-button issues of stress and obesity remain ever-present, the numerous programs and incentives designed to combat them have failed to effectively engage employees. Employers may find the key to making better progress hinges on looking at these programs through an employee’s eyes.” Shelly will shed light on how employees perceive these benefits and share suggested strategies to help you rethink how you select and implement programs to actually engage your employees.

Shelly, with Willis Towers Watson since 2003, provides thought leadership in global health and worker effectiveness and health and work performance research. including innovative engagement approaches that deliver optimal business value. Prior to joining Willis Towers Watson, she was Health and Productivity Leader for GE for 10 years.

Kim Stroud, Employee Benefits Manager for Manatee County, FL, our luncheon speaker, will share the story of how Manatee County has achieved a -2.3% health benefits trend since 2009. She will share the specific health benefit and wellness strategies they deployed that have resulted in employee engagement rates in the high 90%. Creative benefit designs, health plan and vendor collaborations, incentives, integrated clinical advocacy, and now an onsite clinic are just some of the pieces that have increased employee engagement and resulted in a negative trend. 

Kim has served as Employee Benefits Manager for the past 10 years and was previously the Director of Health and Lifestyle Management for almost six years. Her Masters in Human Development Counseling certainly prepared her to develop a comprehensive program built on engagement and the stages of change. She is a frequent national speaker on how Manatee County has achieved savings and improvements in health without cost shifting to employees.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, May 27, 2016

5 Things Employers Would Change About the ACA

Given a magic wand, employers would make signficiant changes to the ACA. Here are the top 5 changes, according to John Barkett of Willis Towers Watson:

  1. Eliminate the Cadillac Tax
  2. Approve the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act
  3. Keep pushing health care delivery system reforms --- and enforcing anti-trust rules
  4. End the employer mandate
  5. Adopt provisions that better address the root causes of the high-cost of health care 

Read John's article in Employee Benefit Adviser here.


Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, May 27, 2016

MBGH Among National Leaders Participating in CMS/AHIP Core Quality Measures Collaborative

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), as part of a broad Core Quality Measures Collaborative of health care system participants, released seven sets of clinical quality measures on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 (

This first set of core measures, used as basis for quality-based payments, were developed by a new broad collaborative of health care system participants, including employers and consumers such as the Memphis Business Group on Health, Pacific Business Group on Health, National Partnership for Women and Families, AARP, and National Patient Advocate Foundation. The Collaborative also includes physician groups and professional organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American College of Physicians, American Gastroenterological Association, HIV Medicine Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Council of Medical Specialty Societies, CAPG, and the American Medical Association. Regional collaboratives such as the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality and Minnesota Community Measurement, are also participants in the Collaborative and have provided their input and recommendations.

The guiding principles used by the Collaborative in developing the core measure sets are that they be meaningful to patients, consumers, and physicians, while reducing variability in measure selection, collection burden, and cost. 

The goal is to establish broadly agreed upon core measure sets that could be harmonized across both commercial and government payers.The core measures are in the following seven sets:

  • Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMHs), and Primary Care
  • Cardiology
  • Gastroenterology
  • HIV and Hepatitis C
  • Medical Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Orthopedics

The Collaborative will continue to convene to monitor progress, invite broader participation, and add additional measures and measure sets.

Click here to see the selected measures.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Despite Delay in Excise Tax, Employers Continue to Explore Private Exchanges

From the National Business Coalition on Health: According to a survey of employers conducted by the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC), 46% have implemented or are continuing to look at private health insurance exchanges to offer health benefits for their covered populations. 

Over the last few months PEEC has polled employers for a broad study on their views and intentions related to exchanges. A second shorter study was conducted in January to gauge strategies in light of the two-year delay in the implementation of the excise tax. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers whose health benefits cost more than $10,200 for individuals or $27,500 for families have to pay an excise or “Cadillac” tax of 40% on the amount above those figures. Prior to the extension of the excise tax implementation, employers were modeling whether their plans would hit the tax thresholds, and if so, when that would take place. Over 40% of employers expected to be exposed to the tax in 2018. 

"Overall, interest in private exchanges remains strong. This year’s results show interest is highest among small and mid-market employers, with 50% showing interest” says Barbara Gniewek, Principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). “Interestingly, these employers are thought to have the most to gain from a private exchange, but noted a lack of available information and education on the solutions. 36% of employers over 10,000 have or are considering private exchanges.” 

Key findings 

  • When asked if they would consider using a private exchange for full-time active employees before 2019, 6% of employers responded they have contracted with an exchange, the same percent as in 2014 and somewhat fewer (40% versus 41%) indicated they are still considering this strategy. 
  • Over half of employers (53%) agreed that if an industry peer moved to a private exchange they would be more likely to do so. 
  • The rate of employers considering the public exchange for full-time active employees did not change year over year (16% in 2014 and 2015). 
  • Key attributes considered when evaluating private exchanges have remained stable from 2014 to 2015, with high priority placed on cost of moving to an exchange, customer experience, and networks available from the exchange plans. 
  • Almost half of early adopters of exchanges said they were able to save money. 
  • Company size is a determining factor in whether or not a company will consider a private exchange, with greater interest from small and mid-sized firms than larger ones. 
  • While over 60% of employers anticipate the excise tax will be repealed, employers continue to aggressively look at ways to reduce their exposure to the tax law. 

An executive summary of the findings along with additional details can be accessed here

 “Employers are more invested than ever in the value of their health care dollar,” said Larry Boress, president and CEO of the Midwest Business Group on Health. “Motivated by high medical care costs and their potential exposure to the ACA's excise tax, interest remains high among health care purchasers in exploring the potential value of private exchanges and other strategies to reduce their exposure to the tax. Many are focused on improving employee engagement through a suite of tools and services that will ultimately enhance the health of their population.” 

 Survey details 

These results come from two online surveys of employers’ views on health insurance exchanges conducted in November 2015 and January 2016. More than 350 employers (28% had less than 500 employees, 21% had 500 – 2,499 employees, 23% had 2,500 – 9,999 employees, and 28% had over 10,000 employees) from 34 different industries across the nation participated in the November survey. PEEC also surveyed 129 employers in January 2016 after the delay in the excise tax implementation was announced, to understand how this delay may have changed their views or intentions related to private exchange and other benefit and worksite activities. 

About the Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC)

The Private Exchange Evaluation Collaborative (PEEC) is an initiative launched in 2013 by four leading nonprofit business coalitions, Employers Health Coalition, Inc. (Ohio), Midwest Business Group on Health, Northeast Business Group on Health, and the Pacific Business Group on Health – all independent coalitions representing employer health care interests –and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) (not an exchange provider). PEEC will solicit and provide unbiased, comparative information and support on private exchange strategies and purchasing decisions.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is There a Link Between Worker Health, Stock Price?

According to three new peer-reviewed studies released in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, there is growing evidence that the health and well-being of an organization is one component of a high-performing, well-managed organization.

An article in Employee Benefit News notes that  "The studies examined the change in stock prices for three portfolios of employers after they won awards for their employee wellness programs or self-scored themselves as having a comprehensive program. In all three cases, award winners and those with high scores outperformed the S&P index, at rates ranging from seven percent to 16% per year."

You can read the complete article here.

MBGH's CEO Culture of Health program, in support of Healthy Shelby, provides employers the framework to build a strong foundation of health and well-being and can contribute to meeting this component of a high-performing organization. Email Cristie Upshaw Travis if you are interested in learning more about this program, which includes technical assistance to help you with easy-to-implement strategies and get you off to the right start.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Learn What Works for Worksite Wellness Programs in Memphis

A special learning and networking session only for MBGH members and participants in our CEO Culture of Health program on April 26, 2016.

MBGH knows that you want to learn from each other what works in worksite wellness programs and how you made it work. 

Knowing what works right here in Memphis and Shelby County will give you confidence to consider similar programs and you will have someone you can contact to get more information, advice, and to share back your experience.

MBGH invites all of our members (and 2016 Annual Conference sponsors at the Supporter level and above) as well as participants in our CEO Culture of Health program to:

(1) Plan to attend our networking and learning session on April 26, 2016 at 10:00 at Rhodes College. Registration will be open soon. In this session, sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, we will highlight examples of successful programs  in the greater-Memphis area and have plenty of time for sharing and discussion. Plan to stay for our 2016 Annual Awards Luncheon immediately after the session at Rhodes(11:15-1:30). We will be recognizing all CEO Culture of Health participants that met our requirements in 2015. Registration is complimentary to both events.

(2) Submit an example of a successful program or event you have implemented. We will compile the examples and give them to you. If no one shares their programs, there is no way to learn from others, so please submit! No program or event is too small. We all need new ideas for effective programming. Click here to download additional information. Deadline for submission is February 29, 2016.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Employers Get Ready for "It's Quittin' Time in Tennessee"

February 22-26 is "It's Quittin' Time in Tennessee" week, a statewide campaign to promote awareness of and resources for quitting smoking. Click here to download the graphic and use it in your communications to show your employees this is a community-wide campaign!

The evidence is clear why employers should care:

  • Quitting smoking saves lives, improves health and reduces health care costs.
  • Reducing workforce smoking rates improves employee health, increases productivity and saves dollars.
  • Reducing tobacco use rates promotes healthy communities from which you pull your employees.
  • There are resources available to help: Tennessee Quitline, local quit programs and health provider interventions

Frame this week as a kickoff to a campaign around tobacco cessation and plan to celebrate those that quit at the Great American Smokeout in November!

Here are some easy to implement suggestions, and resources, but be creative! We will post more specific "It's Quittin' Time In Tennessee" material as we get closer.

Be sure your employees know the benefits you offer them! This is a great week to highlight all the insurance benefits and tobacco and smoking programs you offer.

Consider a daily employee communication that week. You may want to take a page each day from 10 Things You Should Know About Quitting Smoking or Plan to Quit Cards 

Offer, or announce upcoming, smoking cessation classes. Did you know the Shelby County Health Department offers the highly successful and evidence-based American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking classes free? (Note: this link is for Colorado but does an excellent job outlining the program and it's success)  Contact Courtney Tipper at (901) 222-9274 or for more information.

Here are some general resources you will find helpful:

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Hospital Safety Scores Released for Memphis Hospitals

The latest Hospital Safety Scores for Memphis-area hospitals are out! 

Results of interest include:  

  • The Regional One Health Center continued on it's improvement path with its grade moving up to a C.
  • The Methodist hospitals realized downgrades in their scores. Methodist University moved down to a B. Methodist Germantown, North and South moved down to a C. 
  • Congratulations to Saint Francis-Memphis for achieving Straight A's in all of the releases of the Hospital Safety Score since 2012.

The rest of the scores remained the same as in Spring 2015. 

Saint Francis - Memphis   A   Methodist - University    B   Baptist - Collierville            C
Saint Francis - Bartlett      A     Baptist- DeSoto                 C
     Baptist - Memphis             C
     Methodist - Germantown  C
     Methodist - North              C
     Methodist - South             C
     Regional One Health        C

Check out the full scores for these hospitals, as well as 2,520 other hospitals across the country, at You can also see the past scores for these hospitals by selecting "Show Past Grades".

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, October 29, 2015

C-Sections Too Common in Memphis

Methodist-Olive Branch and Saint Francis-Bartlett are the only Memphis-area hospitals to fully meet the Leapfrog Group's C-section standard of no more than 23.9% of births. Other reported rates for Memphis-area hospitals ranged from 27.0% at the Regional Medical Center to 37.5% at Methodist-Germantown.

 HospitalC-Section Rate 
Methodist-Olive Branch
Saint Francis-Bartlett
Regional Medical Center
Saint Francis-Memphis

Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women and Baptist-DeSoto did not report C-section rates due to a mid-year change in data collection systems which resulted in 12-months of data not being available.

Tennessee ranked 24th in the nation with an average C-section rate of 28.3%.

Using C-section data reported by 1,122 hospitals through the voluntary 2015 Leapfrog Hospital Survey, Leapfrog found that, nationally, over 60% of reporting hospitals had excessive rates of C-sections. 

These results mean that far too many women in Memphis, Tennessee, and the U.S. are undergoing a major abdominal surgery without medical necessity.

Cesarean sections carry serious risks of infection or blood clots, and many women experience longer recoveries and difficulty with future pregnancies. C-sections can also cause problems for babies, like breathing difficulties that need treatment in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU). In the long-term, research shows that C-sections can cause chronic pelvic pain in some women, and babies born by C-section are at increased risk of developing chronic childhood diseases like asthma and diabetes.

“This is really about how well we, as doctors, nurses, midwives, and hospitals, support labor,” said Elliott Main, M.D., chair of Leapfrog’s Maternity Care Expert Panel and medical director of Stanford’s California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. “Hospital staff that support labor appropriately and are sensitive to families’ birth plans are shown to have lower C-section rates overall. If we want to improve this rate across the board, then hospitals must hold themselves to this standard to ensure safe short- and long-term outcomes for both mom and baby.”

Click here to:

  • Read more about the methodology used to determine C-section rates
  • Provide your employees with information to help them avoid C-sections except when medically needed
  • Learn more about how providers and policy makers can help reduce unnecessary C-sections
Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, October 12, 2015

New York Times Editorial Calls for Reduced Cost of Hep C Drugs

This New York Times (NYT) editorial lays out the tension in the current debate over the very expensive (@$84,000/treatment un-discounted) Hepatitis C drugs: broad coverage that will significantly increase health plan costs or restricted coverage to keep costs under control but that will not benefit as many patients.

In the end, the NYT points out that manufacturers generally pay what the market will bear so calls for public and private insurers to push for lower pricing, which can support providing these drugs to more people.

MBGH is kicking off a specialty pharmacy management initiative for members which addresses this very issue. The initiative provides hands-on training, data analysis and, most importantly, technical assistance and consulting, that employers need to actually achieve cost savings in specialty spend while still making these drugs accessible to their employees and families. Contact Cristie Travis at for more information.

Read the editorial

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, September 3, 2015

First: Doctor Visits on Demand; Now: Medications Delivered to Your Doorstep

Health care innovators in New York City prove, once again, that where there is a need, entrepreneurs will step in to fill it.

This time Pager, a doctor-on-demand company, is teaming up with Zipdrug to have prescriptions delivered to a patient's home or office, often within one hour.

Customers can track the Zipdrug delivery status on their cell phones and pay the cost of the drug plus a $10 delivery fee.

Pager sends Board-certified physicians to homes and offices within 2 hours of a patient's request for urgent care needs. Currently they offer services in New York City and San Francisco. Read more about Pager.

Read the full article

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, September 3, 2015

More Potential Twists on the Cadillac Tax

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar's September 1, 2015 AP post details the Treasury Department's current thinking about the Cadillac Tax: 

"— The Treasury Department says it is considering an exemption for flexible spending account contributions for dental and vision care, which are two popular uses.The health care law already limited FSA contributions and without such accommodations, the Cadillac tax could lead to their demise.

"A benefit that you are offering your employees so they can save money on taxes is going to wind up costing you money," said economist Paul Fronstin of nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute.

— Treasury is also trying to figure what do about a different kind of workplace arrangement called a "health savings account."

A growing number of workers have high-deductible health insurance that comes with tax-sheltered health savings accounts, or HSAs, that they and their employer can contribute to. But if an employee has his or her contribution deducted from their paycheck, it could potentially trigger the tax.

Officials say they're considering options."

The article also provides perspectives on the potential demise of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). See related blog post here.

Read the full article here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, September 3, 2015

Uninsured Rate Decreases to 9.2% in First Quarter 2015

According to a Dan Mangan September 1, 2015 blog post for CNBC:

"In the first three months of 2015, the CDC said, the rate of people without health insurance stood at 9.2 percent. That's down from 11.5 percent in the same period in 2014, and represents a 20 percent reduction in the uninsured rate over the past year.In absolute numbers, 29 million people lacked health insurance in early 2015, compared with 36 million people in 2014. That number reached a high 48.6 million in 2010, the year the ACA was signed into law by President Barack Obama."

"The CDC's report is the latest survey that strongly suggests the ACA is behind a marked decrease in the uninsured rate in the U.S., as well as declines in the number of people who have difficulty accessing and paying for care."

Read more about how this decrease occurred

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fewer People Skipping Medical Care for Cost Reasons

According to the September 1, 2015 Amy Goldstein article in the Washington Post:

"During the first three months of the year, just 1 in 20 Americans said they did not get medical care they needed because they could not afford it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The findings, from the federal National Health Interview Survey, show that 4.4 percent of people interviewed from January through March said they had skipped medical care in the previous year because of its cost -- the lowest percentage in 16 years. The percent skipping care for cost reasons had reached nearly 7 percent in 2009 and 2010 and has been shrinking since then.

The survey, conducted with people of all ages, does not explain the reason why fewer people are avoiding treatment because of its cost, but the improvement coincides with two big changes: Health insurance has become more common under the Affordable Care Act as government exchanges began nearly two years ago to sell private insurance policies for people who cannot get coverage through a job and as Medicaid for low-income people expanded in some states. At the same time, the economy has been recovering from the Great Recession of 2008-09, so more people are working.The new CDC estimates provide the latest evidence of a significant lessening of  the ranks of Americans who are uninsured: 29 million Americans said they lacked health insurance coverage, 7 million fewer than in 2014."

Read the full article here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, September 3, 2015

Isn't It Time That The Impact on Patients Be the Major Concern?

When exactly did we cross the threshold where we became more concerned about the financial impact on hospitals and doctors than on the health, and sometimes, actual lives of patients?

Why do commentaries, such as this one, which call out the shame of not righting this wrong in New York state, still include an argument that expanding laws allowing malpractice claims are likely to only result in a minimal increase in actual claims?

To give the author's credit, they make many of the right points:

  • Hospitals and doctors are doing a poor job of policing themselves, so malpractice laws that support patients are needed
  • Hospitals should do a better job of focusing on patient safety
  • Patients should not be limited to what they can collect 
  • Don't make it more difficult for patients to even get their case heard
  • Hold top hospital administrators accountable for negligence in their facilities
  • And, their final statement, " But as long as hospitals and doctors block legislation and fight regulation, patients will remain in peril."

I just feel that they should have left the financial discussion out because, by putting it in, they unintentionally support the flawed argument of the hospital and physician lobby that blocked "Laven's Law" from passing in New York. This is a moral issue, not a financial one.

Cristie Upshaw Travis, CEO, Memphis Business Group on Health

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, August 31, 2015

Narrow Networks Can Result in "Surprise" Bills for Patients and Employers

We've all heard the stories, or even experienced it ourselves, about finding out after-the-fact that the anesthesiologist used during surgery was out-of-network and, therefore, the patient and employer owe a lot more for those services that expected. This happens even though the hospital is in-network.

This situation is becoming even more frequent due to the expanded number of narrow-networks put in place with the advent of the Marketplace (aka public health insurance exchange) and in the growing number of employers offering narrow networks as a cost-reduction strategy.

And anesthesiology isn't the only specialty where this can happen. Emergency room physicians, pathologists, radiologists, specialists, and hospitalists are just examples of other, hospital-contracted physicians, that may not be in-network.

Although many insurance companies and self-insured employers have taken steps to protect the patient from the balance billing, the higher out-of-network costs (then picked up by the insurance company or employer) still accrue and add to the increasing high cost of care and therefore premiums.

For employers: What do you do to protect yourself, as well as your employees and their families, from this type of balance billing? How do you hold your health plan or hospitals accountable for having contracted physicians in the networks they accept?

Read more.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, August 31, 2015

New, Very Expensive Treatments for Cholesterol Approved

NOTE: MBGH's new, specialty pharmacy management program for members is exactly what employers need to make the tough decisions around how to manage the costs of the new, very expensive treatments for high cholesterol, while still getting this treatment to those that need it. Contact Cristie at to learn more.

Two drugs in a new class of cholesterol-lowering treatments have now been approved by the FDA --  Praluent, made by Sanofi Regeneron and approved last month, which costs $14,600 a year, and Repatha, made by Amgen and approved last Thursday, at $14,100 a year. Typically, patients that can't tolerate statins, the most prescribed drug class for the treatment of high cholesterol at a cost of only pennies per day, are candidates for the new drugs. Like statins, the new drugs are taken for the rest of a patient's life, resulting in well over 6 figure cost of treatment.

Read this article in the New York Times to get an understanding for the dilemma patients, physicians, insurance companies, and self-insured employers are facing regarding use of these new drugs.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, August 31, 2015

Flexible Spending Accounts May Disappear

Richard Stover, an actuary with Buck Consultants, predicts that Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) will be the first to go if the Cadillac Tax moves forward as planned.

FSAs allow employees to save their own money, pre-tax, to pay for various health-related expenses including co-pays and deductible, eye glasses, and more. According to Stover, eliminating FSAs may be the most obvious way the Cadillac Tax impacts the middle class.

The Cadillac Tax, which taxes the amount of benefits over $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families beginning in 2018, is expected to apply to traditional health insurance, supplemental health insurance plans, flexible spending accounts and, potentially, worksite clinics. 

In his August 31, 2015 article in Politico. author Brian Failer points out that "The Cadillac tax will cap for the first time the open-ended tax break employers receive for providing their workers with health benefits. Economists love the tax because they say that break is a big reason for rising health care costs. Overly generous insurance coverage shields beneficiaries from having to worry about the cost of their care, they say, which encourages them to use more services, which drives up prices.But the tax is quickly becoming one of Obamacare’s least popular components, and businesses and unions alike are demanding lawmakers scrap it before it takes effect."

Repeal of the Cadillac Tax is being pushed for from many fronts, but is not expected to happen during the Obama administration. Both Clinton and Sanders have signaled willingness to reconsider it if elected.

In the meantime, employers are already taking steps to avoid the tax and it is doubtful that they will reinstate many of these changes if the tax is repealed.

Read more here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, August 31, 2015

Memphis Restaurants Receive Eat REAL Tennessee Recognition

Through a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health and the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC), Eat REAL™ Tennessee has announced the first REAL Certified establishments in Memphis.

Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) is a growing national program that helps combat diet-related disease by recognizing foodservice operators committed to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship. 

MBGH encourages all employers to share this list of restaurants with your employees and their families so they can eat healthy outside of work too! Click here to see the list and learn more about the restaurants and share the link with your colleagues.

Memphis’s inaugural class of REAL Certified foodservice establishments can be found throughout the city and include: 

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen     
Cafe Eclectic
City Market 
The Farmer
Fuel Cafe
Hog & Hominy
Lettuce Eat Salad Co.
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe     
Trolley Stop Market
Two Vegan Sistas

“Memphis is a city rich in local food culture and community, and these eating establishments are helping shift the environment towards a more healthful and sustainable model,” said Eat REAL Tennessee Project Manager Nikkole Turner.   

Eat REAL Tennessee is a statewide initiative supported through a grant from the Tennessee Health Department as part of an innovative approach to preventing diabetes and obesity across the state. The program also serves as a community outreach platform, engaging and educating the public on nutrition and healthy dietary choices.   

Utilizing the points-based REAL Index, independent registered dietitians conduct an assessment of menu offerings and overall nutrition and sustainability practices. Establishments are credited with points across a range of criteria such as the use of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy preparation methods, moderate portion sizes, unsweetened beverages, healthy children’s options and sustainable sourcing. Those that satisfy the necessary requirements are awarded and recognized as REAL Certified.    

The USHFC has partnered with the Memphis Business Group on Health (MBGH) and certified its annual awards luncheon this year at Rhodes College. “We were able to offer our awardees a healthy and locally sourced meal in support of our mission and that of the USHFC’s,” said Cristie Travis, Chief Executive Officer of the MBGH.    

All REAL Certified establishments are featured on and promoted through the USHFC’s local partners to help identify “better for you” dining options. The USHFC is partnering with FITKids, a program of the University of Memphis, to help Memphians find healthy family friendly dining establishments through its website and mobile app.   “Shelby County Government is very excited to be working with Eat REAL Tennessee to provide healthier options to our employees and encourage better nutritional choices,” said Shelby County Deputy Administrator Brenda Greene.   

The newly certified Memphis establishments mark an expansion of REAL Certified, which launched with a restaurant campaign in Washington, DC, two years ago and has since grown to include restaurants, workplace dining facilities and public venues in 28 states.    

ABOUT THE UNITED STATES HEALTHFUL FOOD COUNCIL (USHFC) Established in 2011, the USHFC is a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit, dedicated to fighting diet-related disease by realigning the food industry’s incentives with consumers’ health interests. The USHFC works towards its mission through the REAL Certified holistic nutrition and sustainability certification program. REAL Certified foodservice operators must satisfy prerequisites and earn sufficient points in the areas of Responsible (nutrition), Epicurean (preparation), Agricultural (sourcing) and Leadership (going above and beyond). More information can be found at and 

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, June 22, 2015

Telemedicine Expansion Gets Boost from Walgreens, United, Anthem

According to Modern Healthcare, Walgreens plans to reach about half the country with computer based telemedicine programs (also adapted for tablet, smart phones) by December 31, 2015. This announcement falls on the heals of plans announced by Anthem and United to expand their telemedicine services to more than 40 million by next year.

The American Telemedicine Association estimates that 450,000 Americans had telemedicine visits last year for primary care and although that number is only a small portion of the total 15 million people that access telemedicine, it has doubled in the past two years.

Read the Modern Healthcare article here.

The potential impact on health care costs is clear when you realize that the average cost of a telemedicine visit is $39 compared to a physician visit at $120 and ER visit of $499.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, June 19, 2015

Health Care Cost Increases Picking Up Speed

Drew Altman, in his June 11, 2015 WSJ blog post, believes the "lowest of the lows of the health cost slowdown are now in the rear view mirror" and as the economy has recovered, people are using more health care services. In addition, more people covered through health reform are likely impacting the increase as well. Read the blog post here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, June 19, 2015

Out-of-Network Charges Can Break the Bank

A recent report from America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) shows that across the US, some physicians are charging patients fees that are 10 times, and in some cases as much as 100 times, the amount Medicare pays when patients go outside their health plan's network. In Tennessee, for the selected procedures, out-of-network charges range from 7 times what Medicare pays to 33 times what Medicare pays.

Hospitals have adopted a similar strategy. A study reported in the June edition of Health Affairs found that the 50 hospitals with highest prices charged, on average, 10 times the Medicare allowed amount. A CMS study released June 1 found a similar pattern with hospitals charging, on average, $54,000 for a major joint replacement compared to Medicare's average payment of less than $15,000. Read the NY Times article here.

There is increasing pressure on health care providers from both the public and private sectors to re-examine these policies and to get charges more in line with Medicare payments.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, June 19, 2015

CVS Almost Doubles in Memphis Through Purchase of Target Pharmacies

CVS's purchase of Target pharmacies will almost double the number of CVS locations in the Memphis-metro area, making CVS a more attractive network model for Memphis-area employers and their employees.


Read more about the acquisition in the NY Times

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, June 19, 2015

Potential Insurance Company Mergers Could Limit Employer Choices

Source: Morning Consult

6/21/15 Update: Cigna Rejects Anthem's $47 billion offer. Read why and more about other possible mergers in the latest NY Times article.

Are these possible mergers good or bad? Well, the answer is "depends". They would certainly limit employer choices as well as people purchasing individual insurance or insurance through the exchanges. On the other hand, larger insurance companies may be able to negotiate more favorable financial arrangements with the health care provider industry that is continuing to consolidate.

Read more about possible mergers:

Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

LA Times

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, June 19, 2015

MBGH & Methodist: Innovation Has Been the Key

Thinking back over the MBGH-Methodist Healthcare relationship, the first word that comes to mind is “innovation”. In many ways, Methodist has been a “Mikey” for MBGH. You remember “Mikey”, that little boy at the breakfast table in commercials that is willing to try anything for breakfast. Some highlights from the list of “Mikey-like” innovations with MBGH include:
  • The first worker’s compensation PPO network for self-insured employers in the region.
  • The first CAHPS survey in the nation which captured employer’s experience with the MBGH/Methodist worker’s compensation PPO network.
  • The first health system to implement internal quality improvement processes in reaction to MBGH’s 1998 Hospital Report Card on cardiac care.
  • The first roll-out of The Leapfrog Hospital Rewards program in the nation. Cigna ended up implementing a bonus pool for Methodist based on their performance on key Leapfrog safety and quality measures for their entire book of business which gained national recognition and became a model of other pay-for-performance programs nationally.
  • The first, and still only, health system in Memphis to post their detailed results from the Leapfrog Hospital Survey and Hospital Safety Score on their website. 

MBGH and Methodist have also collaborated on the University Medical Center Alliance (Memphis’ own version of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement), launching of the Healthy Memphis Common Table, and implementing the CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Program for their employees. About seven years ago, Methodist provided input into how to help them and other employers create a culture of health at the worksite, which is now a key component of MBGH’s CEO Culture of Health initiative.

Over the past six years, MBGH has recognized the important role Methodist hospitals play in providing safe, high quality, cost efficient care in the greater-Memphis area, including:
  • Best odds of survival for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, pancreatic resection, esophageal resection, and heart angioplasty
  • Cost of care for heart angioplasty
  • Reducing the number of babies delivered before they reach full-term
  • Improvements in ventilator-associated pneumonia
  • Receiving “Straight A’s” on the Hospital Safety Score (Methodist University Hospital and Methodist LeBonheur Germantown Hospital)
  • High risk deliveries
  • Creating and sustaining a culture of health that supports the health of their employees.

As is always the case, these innovations and recognitions don’t just happen. It takes the commitment of a strong leadership team to see the need and then act upon it. Cristie Upshaw Travis, MBGH CEO, remembers what happened after MBGH released the first hospital report card in 1998, “I will never forget the afternoon I picked up the phone and Maurice Elliott, CEO and President of Methodist, was on the line wanting to talk about the report card MBGH had just issued on cardiac care in Memphis. I expected the usual “your data are wrong” and high level marketing points, but instead we spent two-hours going through every data point. The bottom line was that Methodist had been comparing their performance to other Memphis-area hospitals, not to national best practices and was surprised at the results. All of the Memphis health systems had similar if not bigger opportunities for improvement, but Methodist was the one that wanted the details so they could jump on improvement.”

From the early days of working with Maurice to our work with Gary Shorb, Donna Abney, Bill Breen, Ed Rafalski, Mitch Graves, Donna Winfrey, Jane Van Deren and others there has been a common commitment to innovation focused on improving quality and affordability of care for patients first and employer purchasers second.

MBGH thanks Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare for being a special sponsor for our 30th Anniversary and we look forward to working together as we start our next 30 years.
Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, May 18, 2015

Opioid Abuse Costing Employers Billions

According to a recent study released by Healthentic and an article in Employee Benefit News, lost work and productivity due to opioid abuse account for $10 billion. 13% of the opioid users accounted for 92% of the employer costs. 

What should you do?

Insist on conservative prescribing approaches from your health plans and participating physicians

Use HIPAA-compliant tools to identify abusing employees 

Increase and ensure confidential access to treatment

Click here to read the EBN article and access the report here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Friday, May 15, 2015

Check Out Latest Memphis Hospital Safety Scores

The latest Hospital Safety Scores for Memphis-area hospitals are out! Results of interest include:

  • The Regional Medical Center improved its score moving to a D.
  • Methodist North and Methodist South moved back to the Bs they have had in previous results. 
  • For the first time, Baptist Collierville had enough volume to receive it's own score, which was a C.

The rest of the scores remained the same as in Fall 2014: 

Methodist University: A
Methodist Germantown: A
 Saint Francis Memphis: A
 Saint Francis Bartlett: A
 Baptist Memphis: C
 Baptist DeSoto: C 

You can now check out all the past scores for Memphis area hospitals on the website. Select the hospital you are interested in and click "Show Past Grades".

These hospitals have received A's on all of the Hospital Safety Scores since the beginning in Spring 2012:

Methodist University

Methodist Germantown

Saint Francis Memphis

Click here to see the details on Memphis-area hospitals as well as more than 1,500 other hospitals across the country.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, May 14, 2015

Radical Approach to Hospital Bills: Set Your Own Price

According to Kaiser Health News, May 13, 2105:

 "A small benefits consulting firm called ELAP Services is causing commotion by suggesting an alternative: Refuse to pay. When hospitals send invoices with charges that seem to bear no relationship to their costs, the Pennsylvania firm tells its clients (generally medium-sized employers) to just say no."

"Instead, employers pay hospitals a much lower amount for their services — based on ELAP’s analysis of what is reasonable after analyzing the hospitals’ own financial filings."

Needless to say, this approach is disrupting the conventional approach to hospital payments.

In this approach, employers and their TPAs don't have contractual arrangements with hospitals and employees are free to go to any hospital. In other words, there are no pre-defined networks or PPO-type arrangements. According to Kaiser Health News, "Employers detail the reimbursement process in documents establishing how the plan covers workers. That gives it legal weight, ELAP has argued in court. ELAP agrees to handle all hospital bills for an employer and defend workers from collections in return for a percentage fee tied to total hospital charges."

Click here to read the article.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hepatitis C Virus Surges in Appalachia, Including Tennessee

The CDC found that hepatitis C cases increased 364% from 2006 to 2012 for residents ages 12-29 in the Appalachian states of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee. Rural rates were more than double urban rates.

73% of those that responded to a survey regarding risk factors reported they had used intravenous drugs, primarily heroin and prescription opioids. 

Add this to the fact that Memphis ranks second in the country for hepatitis C cases per 100,000 population and it is clear Memphis and Tennessee are hot spots for hepatitis c virus and the new drugs that can now cure this disease.

MBGH is working with employers and specialty pharmacy management experts to develop a series of workshops to focus employers on these issues and develop strategies to manage the cost of specialty pharmacy while, at the same time, offering these and other high quality drugs to their employees and dependents. 

Look for the announcement of our workshops soon!

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Clarifications Issued On Key Health Reform Coverage Requirements

Click here to print out a copy of the clarifications issued by HHS and DOL regarding key health reform coverage requirements, including:

Coverage of FDA-approved contraceptives

BRCA genetic testing

Sex-specific recommended preventive services

Well-woman preventive care for dependents

Colonoscopy anesthesia services

You can also click here to go directly to the DOL site.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CDC Focuses on a Healthy Workforce

2015 MBGH Annual Conference Topic: Effective Worksite Wellness Programs

MBGH CEO Culture of Health Initiative

The latest issue of Business Pulse: Healthy Workforce is now available and explores how the CDC can help employers maximize their worker health and safety while improving their profitability and productivity.  The piece links to many tools that employers may find of value including business-focused CDC resources, the Total Worker Health program and this interactive infographic. 

Check out the Essentials Elements of Effective Worksite Programs under the Resources tab and note that MBGH's CEO Culture of Health initiative completely aligns with these elements. Interested in learning more about this evidence-based program? Contact Cristie Travis at

The CDC Foundation is a non-profit organization that connects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with private-sector organizations and individuals to build public health programs that make our world healthier and safer. The Foundation produces Business Pulse, a quarterly online series which offers useful CDC health resources to businesses, executives, employers and employees.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Does Your Health Plan Treat the New Biosimilars?

2015 MBGH Specialty Pharmacy Management Workshop Topic (held April 1)

From the National Business Coalition on Health:

"Earlier this month, Novartis’ Zarxio was the first biosimilar product approved in the United States, ushering in a new era for the drug industry, consumers and third parties who manage medical and drug benefits. The introduction of cheaper alternatives to relatively complex biologic drugs has created confusion over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval process and specialty-related product availability to be used or marketed."

"For plan sponsors, this situation is not ideal and continues to cause confusion around timing as well as terms important to benefit coverage sought by members as patients for these new biologic/specialty products from manufacturers. In addition, pricing has not been determined but is unlikely to rein in rising specialty drug cost trends or improve current year spending on medical or pharmacy benefits in the U.S."

Cheryl Larson, vice president of our sister coalition, the Midwest Business Group on Health, and Randy Vogenberg, principal for The Institute for Integrated Healthcare, highlight questions employers should be asking related to biosimilars in their April 14, 2015 article in Employee Benefit News.  

1. Have a conversation with your pharmacy benefit management organization and/or health plan regarding their coverage approach or policy related to biosimilars. If you have questions about how biosimilars are different, ask them. 

2. Review your vendor contract and coverage of specialty drugs to determine the impact on current or future plan costs to your organization. 

3. Review your own plans’ drug use patterns and if this type of approval would make a cost savings difference to your members. 

4. Determine if this will make any difference on annual cost trend for the plan versus just the unit cost of a particular drug for an individual medical condition like cancer-related anemia. 5. Continue to advocate for full cost transparency on all specialty drug products by your vendors. 

 The full article published in Employee Benefit News can be found here

Posted by Cristie Travis at Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cadillac Tax To Become 2016 Election Issue

MBGH Members Only Peer Roundtable Discussions: Strategies Being Implemented re: Cadillac Tax

The next time your CFO asks you to explain the Cadillac Tax just tell them it is a way to "equalize the way wages and health insurance are taxed. "

According to the April 13, 2015 article in Employee Benefit News, Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist, explains "Health insurance is compensation and wages are compensation. They should be taxed the same. And they're not". Gruber believes that since health insurance benefits aren't taxed, the system encourages excessive consumption.

The Cadillac Tax, which goes into effect in 2018, is a 40% excise tax on health coverage that costs more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family. It is estimated that about 1/3 of all employers will be subject to the tax if they don't make changes by 2018.

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, believes that because so many employers will be impacted, there will be political pressure to repeal it. However, such a move may result in all of the ACA being re-opened for reconsideration and repeal of other reforms.

Democrats are likely to be pressured more than Republicans since Republicans say "we hate taxes, we hate the ACA, we want to get rid of this tax". Additionally, union plans and unions will be heavily impacted by the tax and will pressure for its repeal as well, putting more stress on the Democrats.

Read the complete article here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, April 13, 2015

Private Exchange Enrollment Doubles in 2015

2015 MBGH Annual Conference Topic: Private Healthcare Exchanges!

According to an April 13,2 015 article in Employee Benefit News, Accenture data shows that enrollment in private exchanges doubled from 3 million in 2014 to 6 million in 2015.

Accenture projects that by 2018, the first year of the Cadillac Tax, 40 million will be enrolled in private exchanges.

Although most of the growth in 2015 was in the mid-market segment, Accenture believes that more large employers, who have been waiting to see what happens in the private exchange market, will fuel future growth. 2018 will be a pivotal year and with 1/3 of employers being impacted by the Cadillac Tax, Accenture predicts that larger employers will have exhausted traditional cost cutting strategies and moving to the exchanges will be the remaining strategy to get them below the tax level.

Read the entire article here.

Posted by Cristie Travis at Monday, April 13, 2015

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