SOA Blog

Hot topics in health

As we prepare to host the 2011 Health Meeting in Boston on June 13-15, we invited several health actuaries to provide us with their perspectives on trends they’re seeing and what they’re excited about for the future and our profession.

This is just the start of the conversation – follow the #SOAHealth11 hashtag on Twitter to get insights and information live from the meeting! (And in case you didn’t hear yet, the SOA is now on Twitter – follow us at SOActuaries.)


David Axene, FSA, CERA, FCA, MAAA
President, Axene Health Partners LLC

Joan C. Barrett, FSA, MAAA
Vice President and Actuary, National Accounts, UnitedHealthcare

Alice Rosenblatt, FSA, CERA, MAAA

Jim Toole, FSA, CERA, MAAA
Managing Director of Life and Health, MBA Actuaries Inc.

Q: Healthcare and health reform have been hot topics lately. How has this affected your work?

Rosenblatt: Some of health reform has been “back to the future” for me. I am once again thinking a lot about risk adjustment.

Axene: More people are asking questions as to what we think on issues. This week’s prime example: what small group underwriting practices will we (the client) have to stop to stay legal under reform. This client specializes in smaller group and small group market and has been quite profitable in this market. They are concerned that their business model will be significantly changed as a result of the changes in what it’s okay to do.

Q: Along with reform, much of the talk has been about reducing cost – in your perspective, what are one or two things that would make the biggest difference in bending the cost curve?

Barrett: The first thing that comes to mind is lifestyle initiatives geared towards such efforts as reducing obesity and smoking cessation.  The second thing is increasing efficiency within the medical delivery system.   Important steps in that direction include Accountable Care Organizations, electronic health records and mini-clinics.  But, what are we missing?

Rosenblatt: High cost-sharing plans and transparency so that consumers understand what things cost and have an incentive to choose lower cost options.

Q; Other than reform, what interesting and exciting trends are you seeing in the industry?

Toole: Other trends that are emerging in the industry include the evolution of accountable care organizations and the application of population based healthcare concepts. It’s exciting to see a concept that “grew up” in public health percolating up into insured populations. I am excited to see where the confluence of epidemiology, public health and actuarial science leads.

Axene: There is a continued emergence of health care innovators that are identifying areas for potential reductions in health care cost.  The latest example involves the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells and tissue.

Q: As you think about the upcoming SOA 2011 Health Meeting, what are you most looking forward to learning about or discussing with your fellow actuaries?

Barrett: More and more actuaries are thinking outside the box.  At this meeting we have sessions that will cover complexity science, behavioral economics and game theory.  I look forward to finding out how I can use these concepts in my day to day work.

Toole: I am excited to meet up with some of my favorite health actuaries and health economists to talk about the evolution of the U.S. healthcare system. While change is scary, I believe there is a great deal of opportunity for actuaries as we bring a robust skill set to the table that can be used throughout the health industry, not just assisting payers.

Heading to the Health Meeting? What are you most looking forward to learning about or discussing with your fellow actuaries?

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