The not-so-healthy debate involving OMNIA

NJBIZ STAFF//September 27, 2015//

The not-so-healthy debate involving OMNIA

NJBIZ STAFF//September 27, 2015//

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The iPhone has become a ubiquitous part of almost everyone’s life, so much so that it’s hard to imagine a time when almost every technology and communications expert was certain it was going to fail.

But when the phone was unveiled in 2007, it was met with a storm of scorn: Bloomberg wrote it off, Microsoft’s CEO guaranteed it would fail, Businessweek predicted it would be an also-ran and, most famously, RIM’s CEO said it would have no impact on BlackBerry sales.

Part of that is some established competitors hoping to sow doubt about a newcomer into the market. But most of it is just the difficulty with innovation — not only do you, as a business owner, have to see a different way of offering a product or service, but you have to convince your customers to see things the way you do as well.

And it’s another kettle of fish altogether when you go from consumer electronics to health care delivery. So the reaction to the OMNIA Health Alliance is somewhat predictable. After all, we’ve seen the response from the naysayers plenty of times before, whether through the Affordable Care Act, the expanded role of for-profit hospitals, and most recently the Navigant Consulting report recommending a major restructuring of emergency and hospital care in the Newark area.

Is there big concern about the plan? Or is this just the standard reaction to any attempt to fix health care?

The OMNIA plan is perhaps the most ambitious concept, at least in New Jersey. This Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield-driven alliance is the latest attempt to move away from the “fee-for-service” model by offering lower-priced insurance policies to consumers that would include discounts at about three dozen hospitals in the state. The effect has been like an allergic reaction to the hospitals not in the winner’s circle on this, as well as a plethora of politicians looking for agreeable talking points on a hot-button issue. All, of course, are concerned with the impact to their bottom lines more so than the overall health of the population.

We appreciate that other hospitals have concerns about their business, but they need to be doing more to find ways of providing and compensating for care that break with established business models that aren’t working. Horizon itself is taking a risk in providing these plans to consumers — and rightly points out that the notion of all of its customers switching to OMNIA-backed plans when they become available next year is laughable. So there is time for other health systems to evaluate what happens and develop plans of their own.

Frankly, this sort of innovation remains badly needed in the health care space. We look forward to seeing if OMNIA has any luck moving the needle.