The Payvider Movement

Part 1 of 3: What is a payvider, and why should health systems make their strategic move now?

Is this the age of the payvider?

By now, most health systems are familiar with the term “payvider” (an integrated delivery and finance system). Many have been weighing the pros and cons of initiating their own payvider solution, perhaps for years. But, for them, there has been no catalyst strong enough to set the payvider wheels in motion. That critical tipping point may well be here, however, as health systems feel increased pressure to make greater financial and strategic impact even as strong headwinds make it difficult to make the advances that will enable them to grow.

Fortunately, technology, regulations, and market dynamics have turned a corner and are now favoring those providers looking to become payviders. By all indications, the time to move on the payvider option is now.

Payvider 101 (What is a “payvider” anyway?)

A payvider is perhaps best described as an integrated delivery and finance system. In other words, it is an entity that sells and administers a health plan product and then delivers the associated care. It is both payor and provider (thus “payvider”).

The payvider solution works with a wide range of health plan structures, including self-insured groups, fully insured groups, individual and small groups, Medicare Fee-for-Service, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and more.

There are three payvider models:


The joint venture model brings payors and providers together in alignment to develop their own health plans. Both share the same goals of improving patient care and attracting a greater number of members, although this model commonly puts the payor in the lead role.


For the insurance company as provider model, the payor transitions to become the provider of healthcare. This gives the insurance company greater overall control of costs while adding some level of convenience for the member (since everything is handled by one entity).


In a provider plan model, the health system creates its own health plan and retains control of the finances, having no obligation to share with other partners. The provider can put patient care at the forefront while fully benefiting from any and all savings they create through efficiency and quality improvements to their own healthcare services.

Model #3, the provider plan, puts the health system squarely in the driver’s seat, while models #1 and #2 take the provider out of that position of control. The joint venture and insurance company as provider models have rarely resulted in either financial stability for the health system or true care transformation.¹ Instead, they now represent the “corporatization of American healthcare,” a scenario in which providers are increasingly managed (versus managing) throughout the process and much of the value created is absorbed by the intermediaries versus being shared among providers, employers, and health plan members. The provider plan model is designed to mitigate those issues.

Why should a health system be motivated to become a payvider?

There are many reasons for a health system to become a payvider. First and foremost on many health systems’ minds are financial viability and stability. A payvider strategy can help health systems achieve that. Health systems that become payviders have the opportunity to build strong bonds with self-funded employer groups, thereby capturing market share and improving their payor mix. They can also add diversified revenue through administrative and program fees, as well as drive a significant cost savings on one of their organization’s largest expenses: their own employee health plan.

But the real motivation for becoming a payvider is the opportunity to drive care transformation through payment reforms and eliminating misaligned incentives and structural barriers, such as compensation design, that prevent many providers from delivering the best care in the most efficient manner.

Take for example the advanced primary care model, which uses a team-based, multimodal engagement approach to patient care. In this model, primary care physicians are able to have a larger patient panel while also spending more time with patients when needed by using a team of information-connected colleagues that includes nurse practitioners, clinical pharmacists, behavioral health providers, and care navigators to handle less-complex patients and routine tasks. This team-based medicine approach, enabled by real-time data sharing and secure member communication, lowers costs, improves outcomes and patient satisfaction, and reduces provider burnout. But most health plans don’t currently have strong reimbursement strategies for this optimal care delivery. When providers are integrated into the health plan, though, the payment redesign can help to drive the care redesign.

A provider-led payvider model (the provider plan) is perhaps the best way to achieve the true aim of value-based care: creating cost savings while simultaneously optimizing patient outcomes. Payviders also have access to better data and visibility. As Dr. Jonathan Slotkin, chief medical officer for Contigo Health, LLC observes, “Every successful provider-sponsored health plan that I have seen has had one key thing in common: each leverages modern data analytics and reporting technology to effectively manage both the provider and the payor sides of their health plan offering.”

The vital role of data and analytics

Economics and healthcare market forces stimulated the need for innovations such as payvider solutions, but it is advanced data and analytics that have made them viable. Bringing clinical and claims data together can:

  • Deliver high value for both cost and care
  • Help enhance financial performance while also improving outcomes
  • Empower collaborative decisions around clinical care, cost efficiency,
    and the consumer experience
  • Support new, alternative payment models
  • Guide and motivate investment in preventive care and quality management²

With better access to data comes better management potential

The payvider that accesses data and analytics can establish a next-best-action (a.k.a. NBA) tool. This single integrated data repository captures a complete picture of a patient’s medical history, social determinants of health, current care plans, claims data, and more. Then, through algorithms and artificial intelligence, it helps identify the next best actions. The combined data also contributes to a more informed patient-centered medical home, providing plan members the necessary care coordination and navigation they need to help ensure the right care at the right time and place.

Such data can aid the primary care physician and full care team in guiding patients throughout their care journey. Further, benefit design and a network tiering structure can be optimized by data, helping to drive domestic utilization and promote use of in-network providers.

Additional advantages can include:

  • Benefit and reimbursement strategy focused on advanced primary care, patient-centered medical home care, and preventive care
  • High-value prior-authorization strategy, integrated communications, and situational rules, such as “gold carding”
  • Integration of ancillary benefits, including pharmacy, dental, and vision, to support whole-person care

Better data leads to better management. And better management leads to better outcomes.

A recent survey³ of payors by Change Healthcare revealed that value-based care helps improve quality of care, patient engagement, and cost reduction:

Payors reported a 5.6% cost reduction related to unnecessary medical expenses.


80% reported increases in quality of medical care.


73% saw improved patient engagement.

Why NOW is the time to initiate a payvider solution

Health systems are feeling the need for change

Labor expense and shortages are now everyday trials. Capital markets are changing as bonds are downgraded. Traditional contracting is no longer working as payors increasingly squeeze providers. More than ever, health systems must make a positive impact, both financially and strategically. Unfortunately, many simply continue to rely on traditional approaches in this nontraditional environment, somehow expecting different results.

Cutting operating costs while discreetly raising prices, for instance, or adding ancillary services are merely short-term fixes. Instead, health systems needing healthy change must embrace a different strategy.

According to The Keckley Report,⁴ there are three distinct changes that providers must make now to find success in the future state of healthcare:

  1. Creating regional systems of health via cooperation among public health and health-delivery entities in the interest of sharing data and resources across multiple organizations
  2. Increasing competitive strength in price and value, made possible through the integration of financials and care delivery
  3. Emphasizing greater accountability by health plan members, fueled by infusing self-care in care management

The good news? The stars are aligning for the payvider solution

While health systems might have found it challenging to initiate their own payvider solution in the past, technology, regulation, and market dynamics have now shifted to health systems’ favor.

Today data integration is much improved thanks to more health information exchanges and fast healthcare interoperability resources data standards. There is greater information integration into electronic medical records, meaning that benefit design information, prior authorization, and preferred providers can now be integrated into clinical decision support systems. Meanwhile, the maturation of artificial intelligence and machine learning are accelerating next-best-actions tools, improving diagnostics, and enhancing population health trends.

On the regulation front, lawmakers are paying closer attention to healthcare affordability, access, and equity. New pricing-transparency requirements call attention to disparate rates between hospitals and payors and are driving normalization of market rates (all of which are addressed by the payvider solution).

At the same time, employers are growing increasingly frustrated as conventional approaches are no longer effective. Employers are now confronted with an aging employee population⁵ stricken with metabolic disease and chronic conditions including obesity, diabetes, and musculoskeletal issues.⁶ Younger employees are facing a higher incidence of cancer.⁷ Behavioral health and substance use disorder issues have exploded since the pandemic.⁸

Employers are ready for a better solution. Beyond the factors making it practical to initiate a payvider solution, there are also emerging opportunities for health systems who do so. With more providers entering the value-based care space come new occasions to create mutually beneficial arrangements. For instance, syndicate networks bring regional health systems together to enable access to high-quality, high-value care outside of a single hospital service area. Health systems also have the opportunity to create a payvider network, with each participating health system offering reciprocal care and rates in the interest of serving employer groups having multiple locations, remote workers, or travelers that extend the call for care beyond the local service area.

By creating a national primary network, payviders can eliminate dependence on specialty wrap networks.

With good news comes greater risk to those who wait

Perhaps the greatest incentive to act now is that others are already making the move.

More providers are experiencing a sense of urgency as industry disruption forces them to rethink current payor and provider partnerships and reassess where their best opportunities lie moving forward. Payors don’t want to miss out either and are vigorously building and investing in primary care resources so they can capture control of where and how care is delivered.

As the carriers dive deeper into this space, and as value-based care comes to the commercial/employer plans, if health systems fail to create their own payvider solutions now, they risk being consumed by the carrier’s solutions. Without the strength of their own payvider program, providers stand to lose valuable leverage in network negotiations and could see their market share eroded by third-party disrupters offering point solutions and alternative care-delivery options. Conversely, a payvider strategy helps health systems create a barrier of protection—a strategic moat of sorts—against payors and other market disrupters.

Simply put, health systems must evolve to survive. Fortunately, that has become more viable and attractive than ever.

Evidence that payvider works

More than 300 U.S. health systems currently have some sort of health plan.⁹ Having a unique ability to see and navigate the entire care experience (after all, they are providing the care), the payvider then has the added benefit of greater visibility and increased influence. Here are a few real-world examples of payvider solutions.

Kaiser Permanente, as of June 30, 2023, has a health plan with 12.7 million members (up 81,000 members since December 31, 2022),10 an annual operating revenue of $95.4 billion in 2022,11 and a high market share, including the highest rankings in six key regions.12 According to Forbes, in 2023 the plan earned an average grade of 4.3 out of 5 from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.13 Kaiser Permanente continues to earn a strong reputation for its blend of low cost and high quality,14 thanks to the integration of health plan and care systems and its focus on prepaid (capitated) products, including HMOs and EPOs.

UW Health/Quartz exemplifies how the payvider solution can contribute to financial strength for a health system, as illustrated in a recent article by the Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). Creating its own health plan allowed UW to mitigate swings in the market and recover from the unexpected volume changes and loss of high-margin elective procedures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.15 Also, predictable capitation payments enabled UW to diversify revenue and achieve financial stability, ending each year with positive margins while other systems in the fee-for-service world saw financial devastation. Further, because UW owns its own plan, it has been able to invest in care innovations, like virtual care and other digital capabilities—including a hospital-at-home care model—all fully or partially funded by the savings afforded by its plan’s capitated population.

Phoenix-based Banner Health and CVS Health business Aetna came together to form a joint-venture health plan in 2016 in their pursuit of a value-based care model.16 Based on the success of that venture—citing an average cost savings of 8%–14%, improved member experiences, and growth to approximately 350,000 members as a product of that relationship—the two organizations announced in February 2021 that they had committed to a long-term agreement that extends the joint-venture relationship.17

It’s not a new concept

While many health systems view the payvider solution as a daring new model, the reality is that this concept has been around in the healthcare environment for nearly a century. Although the term “payvider” was still decades away, the model was introduced in the 1920s.18 With the onset of the Great Depression, providers initiated the original form of health insurance, offering care services to individuals on a prepaid basis.19 It was the first employer-sponsored hospitalization plan and the forerunner of the modern HMO, a strong idea that led to the creation of Blue Cross organizations.20

How and where to start a payvider solution

According to Contigo Health, the best place for a health system to begin its payvider solution is right at home with its own employee health plan. There they can learn and grow in a more controlled and familiar environment. Then, leveraging the knowledge, experience, and credibility gained through their own program, they can expand with the engagement of local self-insured employers who would benefit from the health system’s payvider solution. Methodically, the payvider solution can then be sold to larger employers, including those having multiple locations in multiple markets.

The need is clear, and the time is now

By all indications, with health systems facing relentless pressures and a more imminent need for change—combined with favorable forces of evolving technology, regulations, and market dynamics—the time of the payvider movement has arrived. In the remainder of this three-part series, we will present additional insight to help health systems take advantage of this unique opportunity.



1. Fierce Healthcare. 2018. “More providers enter joint ventures with insurers to create health plans.” February 2018. Link. Accessed August 31, 2023.

2. West Monroe. 2022. “2023 Outlook: The Future of the Healthcare Industry.” December 2022. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

3. Change Healthcare. 2018. Report: “Finding the Value: The State of Value-Based-Care in 2018.” June 2018. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

4. Paul Keckley. The Keckley Report. July 11, 2022. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

5. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2022. “Employment Projections: Median Age of the Labor Force, by Sex, Race, and Ethnicity.” September 2022. Link. Accessed August 31, 2023.

6. National Library of Medicine. 2021. “Metabolic Syndrome Incidence in an Aging Workforce: Occupational Differences and the Role of Health Behaviors.” July 28, 2021. Link. Accessed August 31, 2023.

7. City of Hope. 2023. “Why Are Cancer Rates Rising in Adults Under 50?” January 2023. Link. Accessed August 31, 2023.

8. EBRI. 2022. “Use of Health Care Services for Mental Health Disorders and Spending Trends.” September 2022. Link. Accessed August 31, 2023.

9. Healthcare Finance. 2016. “25 Biggest Provider-Sponsored Health Plans Include Some of the Nation’s Biggest Health Systems.” September 2016. Link. Accessed August 31, 2023.

10. Kaiser Permanente. 2023. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Q2 2023 Financials. August 4, 2023. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

11. Cision PR Newswire. 2023. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals Report 2022 Financial Results. February 10, 2023. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

12. eHealth. 2022. Best Health Insurance Companies Compared. October 28, 2022. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

13. Forbes. 2023. Kaiser Permanente Health Insurance Review 2023. January 3, 2023. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

14. Value Penguin/Lending Tree. 2023. Kaiser Permanente Insurance Review: Why Is It Top-Rated? July 25, 2023. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

15. Frontiers of Health Services Management. For UW Health, Health Plan Ownership Provides Financial Stability. Kaplan, Alan S. FACHE. Summer 2023. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

16. Beckers Hospital Review. 2021. It’s Time for Payvider Adoption and Growth. June 16, 2021. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

17. Ibid.

18. Wikipedia. Health Insurance in the United States, History. Link. Accessed August 30, 2023.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

Publication: Employee Benefit News

September 28, 2023

Whenever your employees need out-of-network care, they may be faced with unanticipated costs that can be eased with the right network solutions. By reconsidering various offerings and making the right choices, your organization can save money — while making their healthcare costs more predictable.

Gain complimentary insights into:

  • The evolving landscape of out-of-network care
  • How to maximize savings by understanding the lifecycle of a claim
  • How employers can access multiple cost containment solutions without obligation


Source URL:

*Courtesy of Employee Benefit News

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

Premier, Inc.
June 21, 2023

Key takeaways:

  • The Premier Trailblazer Award – Life Science and the Premier Trailblazer Award – Employer will be given for the first time this week during Premier’s Breakthroughs Conference and Exhibition.
  • These awards recognize achievements in the use/deployment of innovative and scalable methods and technology to accelerate clinical evidence into real-world practice.
  • Congratulations to AstraZeneca and Walmart, recipients of this year’s Trailblazer Awards!

Premier’s annual Breakthroughs Conference and Exhibition is in full swing in Nashville, Tennessee, this week and part of the excitement is the presentation of awards and special recognitions to our members, suppliers and others that have stepped up their game in transforming healthcare in the communities they serve throughout the year. These include our Innovation CelebrationAlliance Excellence AwardCares Award, various member and supplier performance awards, and new this year – the Trailblazer Awards.

We are thrilled to celebrate the achievements of AstraZeneca, winner of the first Trailblazer Award – Life Science and Walmart, winner of the first Trailblazer Award – Employer!

AstraZeneca is a science-led, patient-centered company that develops innovative medicines for millions of people globally. The company leads a diverse area of therapy focus for oncology, biopharmaceuticals and rare disease that includes cardiovascular, renal and metabolism (CVRM), respiratory and immunology (R&I) and vaccine and immune therapies (V&I).

AstraZeneca and Premier’s PINC AI™ Applied Sciences (PAS) team have partnered over the past 15 years to design more than 37 projects involving clinical trials, prospective and retrospective research, feasibility studies and data and evidence generation. These projects focus on bridging the gap between life science innovations and implementation in various therapeutic areas.

Our collaborative work in oncology care was formally recognized in September 2022 with a Biotech Week Boston (BWB) Award in Digital Medicine for bold and innovative creation or use of technology-enabled healthcare solutions that are propelling technology forward and solving a healthcare need.

Walmart: Trailblazer in Employee Health Plan Innovation

Walmart is an iconic retailer and employer of 2.1 million people across 10,500 business units in 20 countries. In the U.S., more than 1.6 million associates rely on Walmart’s comprehensive suite of benefits that gives them and their families access to affordable, quality care to support all aspects of life – when, where and how they need it. Walmart’s progressive health benefits include its high-performing centers of excellence (COE) programs under the leadership of Walmart’s Lisa Woods, Vice President, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing, and her team.

Walmart and Premier’s Contigo Health have partnered over the last decade to design evidenced-based, market-leading COE programs focusing on Spine, Joint, Cardiac and Bariatric Surgery. The patient-centered specialty programs include extensive provider vetting, direct-to-provider contracting, collaborative care decision-making focused on quality and appropriate care, bundled payments, concierge patient experience, and lower costs with better outcomes.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Contigo Health’s Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Slotkin and Walmart’s Lisa Woods shared that half of spine patients avoided surgery, and spine surgery patients returned to work 20 percent sooner than their non-COE counterparts.

Congratulations to our first Premier Trailblazer Award winners!

AstraZeneca will be recognized during this evening’s Breakthroughs keynote session and Walmart will be recognized during tomorrow morning’s thought leadership session. All conference attendees are welcome to join us in celebrating their trailblazing achievements.

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

Steven Nelson
President, Contigo Health

Britt Hayes
Chief Commercial Officer, Contigo Health

The healthcare industry itself is not immune to the challenges of managing health benefits costs for its own workers. Benefit administrators for health systems are faced with the same challenge that all employers are addressing in 2023 and beyond: how to provide employees with the highest-quality care while optimizing costs and maximizing plan flexibility for both their healthcare employees and the organization. For U.S. companies, the cost of caring for more than one in two Americans receiving insurance through employer-sponsored plans continues to increase.¹

For larger employers, the total cost of health benefits further rose by 5.3% in 2021.² Even as they provide care to others, many health systems’ associates are seeing increases in their insurance premiums that are outpacing inflation and wage growth. In fact, the average annual health insurance premiums for family coverage for employer-sponsored health plans have topped $20,000 for the first time, according to KFF 2018. On average, covered workers contribute 18% of the premium for single coverage and 30% of the premium for family coverage. Total costs for these premiums increased by 22% from 2014 to 2019, and worker contributions increased by 25% during that time.³ To better manage the cost of care, employers across all sectors have transitioned to self-funding options. Today more than 61% of some 150 million people receiving employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) are covered by self-funded or partially self-funded healthcare plans.

In very large companies with 5,000 or more employees, 91% of workers are in self-funded plans, and the rate of adoption among smaller organizations continues to accelerate.⁴ Just like any other self-funded employer, health systems generally require some type of third-party administration (TPA) solution to administer their health plans. Some use carriers or health insurance companies that market “administrative services only” (ASO) options for their TPA functions. Others use traditional TPAs. A partnership with a specialty TPA that offers deep expertise in the intricacies of managing health benefits for healthcare workers, however, has the potential to be transformative across a health system’s entire organization.

For larger employers, the total cost of health benefits in 2021 is expected to further rise by 5.3%.

For the first time, average annual health insurance for employer-sponsored health plans have topped $20,000 per family.

Plan Management In a Complex Environment

Health systems must consider a myriad of business factors when evaluating a TPA relationship. In addition to the increasing costs of employee care, they are immersed in a volatile industry environment of skyrocketing patient care costs, tight operating margins, reimbursement pressures, complex partner relationships, and moves to new care-delivery models that require greater transparency. At the same time, they are also struggling to balance the benefits of new technologies with EMR and data management complexities, ever-changing regulatory issues, aging patient populations with more complex medical issues, and highly competitive workforce challenges. Adding to the current landscape is the impact of COVID-19.

Coupled with so many other issues, the pandemic has put even greater stress and uncertainty on the country’s healthcare system. These complications can make the prospect of transitioning to a TPA plan or a new TPA partner seem overwhelming for a health system. Yet the urgency to deliver quality care at lower costs, without compromising service and positive member experiences, is greater than ever before. Forging a relationship with the right TPA that has extensive expertise and flexibility can be an ideal solution for many health systems, despite the perceived complexities of making such a move. This is particularly true for larger health systems that have already invested heavily in quality health solutions for their employee population. They require a highly flexible plan that optimizes these investments, with options that fit specific needs of employees.

Specialty TPA Advantages for Differing Priorities

Simply put, self-funded organizations may choose a specialty TPA with deep health systems expertise to gain more control over their destiny than they could achieve in a traditional carrier relationship. That greater control can translate into flexible options in benefit design, data integration, population health tools (leveraging CINs and ACOs), and nondomestic network coverage, as well as substantial business reimbursement for patient care. It can also mean more significant opportunities to utilize their clinical strengths in caring for the organization’s employees. A specialized TPA relationship can address this need for control and customization, and it can respond to differing priorities across the system. From HR to finance to clinicians and business development, each function can realize positive impacts from an effective TPA partnership. Working with a TPA that is attuned to a health system’s entire ecosystem helps to create a personalized approach that empowers unprecedented collaboration.

A Tailored Approach

For the HR team at a health system, the TPA partner must be an expert in designing flexible plans targeted to the current and changing needs of the system’s workforce. It should have the capabilities to introduce new and innovative options for the health system’s most discerning population: its associates. The plan design must also integrate seamlessly with existing health management programs, such as PBMs, ACOs, and clinically integrated networks (CINs). The working relationship with the TPA partner is also a significant factor in helping to ensure the success of the plan. HR benefits administrators should expect high levels of service, responsiveness, objectivity, and useful reporting tools from the TPA.

Forging a relationship with the right TPA that has extensive expertise and flexibility can be an ideal solution for many health systems.

Working with a TPA that is attuned to a health system’s entire ecosystem helps to create a personalized approach that empowers unprecedented collaboration.

Domestic Utilization and Cost Management

For CFOs charged with cost and risk management across all aspects of the organization, a strong TPA relationship will help facilitate cost-containment opportunities. By focusing on actual costs rather than carrier rates, a well-designed plan can provide direct savings that remain within the health system. A TPA that possesses health system insights and expertise can identify opportunities for maximizing domestic utilization rates, which can contribute significantly to overall system revenue generation and employee benefits cost control. An experienced, employee-focused TPA will be able to lead a thorough analysis to assess gaps in quality of care and provider networks to strengthen domestic utilization. When health systems employees and their health plan dependents use the actual services they provide, they help contribute to building a stronger community and stronger brand while taking advantage of the quality of care provided by the health system.

Network providers can realize more financial benefits, and systems can play an active role in improving their staff’s health outcomes. By directly assessing and managing claims data while maintaining patient confidentiality or PHI integrity, health systems can find ways to mitigate rate increases over time. Utilization is vitally important in today’s healthcare environment. Increases in domestic utilization can make a difference when it comes to containing spiraling costs. From 2016 to 2017, spending rose 4.2%, while prices jumped 3.6%, but healthcare utilization only grew by 0.5% during that time, illustrating dramatic opportunities for improvement.⁵

Data-Driven, Patient-Centered Care

As CMOs, CQOs, and CIOs work with their systems to focus on strategies that deliver quality, data-driven, patient-centered care more effectively, a customized plan can make meaningful contributions toward these efforts. In an ideal scenario, health systems want to further improve their population health through a TPA relationship that can include tools to help tap real-time clinical information, enabling them to achieve optimal levels of appropriate care. Virtually every health system has invested heavily in data, technology, and EMR as mission-critical assets. U.S. health IT spending topped $7.1 billion in 2017 and continues to increase annually.⁶ Partnering with a TPA that has access to clinical data decision-support tools can help providers deliver a tailored plan to allow providers to offer the right care, at the right time, in the right setting, at the right costs. Leveraging these tools can help address targeted variations, thus enabling flatter overall medical trends.

A TPA with health system insights and expertise can identify opportunities for maximizing domestic utilization rates, which can contribute significantly to overall system revenue.

U.S. health IT spending topped $7.1 billion in 2017 and continues to increase annually.


A personalized plan can also serve as a powerful recruitment tool. HR teams must attract talent with a robust, affordable, and flexible health benefits package that enhances members’ experiences. Many employers are recognizing this need. The number of those who view their healthcare offerings as an integral part of their workforce strategy increased from 36% in 2019 to 45% in 2020.⁷ The right plan that includes work-life balance/flexibility programs, support for innovation, and mentoring opportunities can also be an essential retention tool for health systems employers in a highly competitive job market.⁸ According to a recent survey, more employees in the healthcare sector report they have been actively looking for a job during the past year than in other sectors.⁹

Business Development

Business development teams are seeking new revenue-generation opportunities. For some health systems, an optimized self-funded plan can help create direct relationships with non–health system employers looking for a better way to achieve their health benefit goals. The plan can serve as a model and a facilitator for initiating new relationships with employers in order to pursue broader strategic aims and increase market share.

Overcoming Barriers

A self-funded plan with a specialty TPA relationship can be a tremendous advantage for the right health system. But it is not always a solution for every organization. All potential barriers and objections should be assessed, along with timing, before considering a shift. For instance, the arrangement requires knowledgeable benefit administration skill sets to make the most of the TPA relationship. If the level of internal expertise is not currently present, the organization may need to invest in staffing to build or train the right teams. The same is valid for health systems that may be considering self-funding their health benefits plan as a precursor to delivering direct-to-employer offerings. Other barriers may include organizational concerns about disrupting long-standing relationships with current payors or moving from a large partner with a known brand to a nimble and specialized but lesser-known entity. In addition, an organization’s leadership may not recognize the potential value of a specialized TPA relationship without a thorough analysis of the positive impact it can have on the entire organization. HR teams should align with finance teams and be prepared to make the case. Changing the status quo in any organization is an educational process, and the transition to a new or different TPA relationship will require a thoughtful strategy. The goal should be to engage all stakeholders and address possible concerns while conveying the cost and operational benefits that can be realized. A specialty TPA partner with the requisite depth and breadth of health system experience can assist in helping to remove these barriers.

A personalized plan can also serve as a powerful recruitment tool.

For some health systems, an optimized self-funded plan can help create direct relationships with non-health system employers looking for a better way to achieve their health benefit goals.

HR teams should align with finance teams and be prepared to make the case.

Contigo Health: Uncomplicating the Complicated

Today’s healthcare world is more complex than ever before. Building a self-funded plan requires a TPA partner that will help “uncomplicate the complicated” while facilitating quality care, cost savings, and innovation. An experienced TPA partner understands the unique complexities of health systems and can effectively navigate self-funding design and implementation to realize the plan’s full potential across the entire organization. While numerous TPAs exist, health system decision-makers must closely examine the additional value a specialty TPA can offer. Contigo Health® Sync Health Plan TPA is redefining health systems’ expectations for TPA services with an exciting combination of offerings and continuous innovation. In addition to its legacy of TPA leadership, Contigo Health, formerly Health Design Plus (HDP), is backed by the strength and resources of its affiliation with Premier, Inc, a leader in data, analytics, consulting, and group purchasing for health systems.

Partnership Benefits

  • Contigo Health offers leading-edge, TPA custom solutions designed expressly for health systems
  • A client roster featuring leading employers known for quality and innovation in health benefits delivery
  • Strategic analysis, design, and integration with existing health management programs
  • Flexible, objective benefit design for greater control in payment models, data integration, and network coverage
  • Comprehensive reporting tools and protection of confidential information
  • Exceptional client relationships, with a proven track record reflected by exceptional client retention and consistently high Net Promoter scores
  • Experienced, responsive, and friendly service from a professional, caring, and hardworking team that delivers unparalleled support
  • Close examination of the additional value

  • Combination of offerings and continuous innovation

  • Legacy and leadership backed by strength and resources

Not already self-funded? For health systems that are not already self-funded, Contigo Health can lead the transition when they are ready to make the change.

Ready to learn more? Speak with a Contigo Health Representative today at 330-656-1072 or visit


1. Berchick, Edward R., Hood, Emily, and Barnett, Jessica. 2018. “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2017.” United States Census Bureau. September 12, 2018.

2. Business Group on Health. 2020. “2021 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey.” August 2020.

3. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). 2019. “2019 Employer Health Benefits Survey.” September 25, 2019.

4. KFF Survey. 2019.

5. Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). 2019. “2017 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report.” February 11, 2019.

6. Spitzler, Julie. 2018. “Health IT spending last year prioritized EMRs.” Becker’s Health IT. January 29, 2018.

7. Business Group on Health Survey. 2020

8. America’s Health Insurance Plan. 2018. “The Value of Employer-Provided Coverage.” February 2018.

9. Deloitte Development LLC. 2013, “Talent 2020: Surveying the talent paradox from the employee perspective – The view from the Health Care sector.” September 2012.

Disclaimer: Forward-looking statements are predictive in nature and reflect the authors’ beliefs at the time of the statement. Embedded links are accurate at the time of publication and are subject to change. Reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate and from reliable sources. Contigo Health, LLC, is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

Substance use disorder (SUD) is something that touches us all. Whether it’s due to the lasting effects of the pandemic or the pressures applied on modern society both economically and emotionally, SUD is on the rise. Especially in the workplace. In fact, 70% of people suffering from SUD are employed, and studies suggest that there has been a 30% increase in substance use overall since 2020.¹  These numbers are eye opening and should make us think about the true cost of SUD.

SUD is costing employers and the workplace.

The modern work environment is changing and evolving quickly, and the pressures on employees have never been greater. Hence the rise in substance use, which in the end costs employers. The annual cost of a SUD diagnosis in 2018 for employers who self-insure was $15,640 per affected health plan member and $35.3 billion in the U.S. population.² Overall, lost productivity from SUD costs employers $25.5 billion a year, and workers with untreated SUD miss nearly 50% more days a year than their peers.³ Absenteeism from substance use isn’t simply inconvenient; it creates serious productivity issues as well.

Jobs are either not being done or are not being done correctly, and employees under the influence in the workplace are a danger not only to themselves but to others. This is especially true in industries like manufacturing and transportation, where lives could be on the line. All of this may lead to employers incurring costs such as hiring replacement workers or adding to others’ workloads, which makes for low morale and a less-than-optimum company culture. But the real loss is to the affected employee. Without treatment, they will struggle to reach their full potential both in the work environment and life.

According to Quit Genius, turnover is another significant issue facing employers as a direct result of SUD.⁴ Twenty-five percent of employees report having had more than one employer in the past year. That number rises dramatically to 36% among employees with SUD. Productivity suffers when people change jobs frequently and onboarding has to happen. Replacing employees is also expensive. From recruitment to training new employees, the cost burden for the employer is approximately 21% of a job’s annual salary. No matter how you dissect the cost of SUD in the workplace, you’ll see it’s a problem that employers need to notice and address.

SUD is costing us all.

While we are able to quantify what SUD costs employers and the workplace to operate, the societal costs are immeasurable. From diseases, hypertension, mental health issues, and premature death to the cost of interdiction, law enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration, society pays dearly for SUD. Consumers pay in the form of higher prices for goods and services.⁵ Employers and employees pay higher health insurance premiums, and we all pay higher taxes for healthcare, law enforcement, and treatment programs.⁶

But it’s the personal costs that are the hardest to measure and heaviest to bear. Poor health, broken relationships, and financial hardships are but a few of the tolls that SUD takes. When someone has a family member suffering from SUD, it can impact their own ability to focus at work and may cause financial hardship, reduce their own job retention, and increase anxiety and depression.

Children are also adversely affected by this affliction. Many people don’t realize that exposure to SUD and adverse

childhood experiences is associated with increased risk for health problems across a lifespan.⁷ The ripple effect of SUD throughout society is unmistakable and costly. But we must remember that SUD isn’t the result of an individual’s moral failing but is rather a chronic condition that needs to be treated.

Lost productivity from SUD
costs employers $25.5 billion per year.

Workers with untreated SUD miss nearly 50% more days a year than their peers.

Contigo Health offers a revolutionary new approach to treating SUD.

The costs of SUD both financially and emotionally are alarming—so alarming that they inspired us to react with a revolutionary new approach to treating it. Our program is designed to be everything traditional care isn’t. It’s discreet, allowing employees to work without having to share personal struggles with their employer in industries that don’t have mandatory drug screening. It allows a person to continue on with their life while seeking treatment. And it’s accepting, welcoming all with open arms, with special consideration for members of the LGBTQ+ community and diverse populations.

What makes our SUD treatment program so unique?

We offer immediate support, 24/7. After an initial triage call and determination is made about the right level of treatment, health plan members are referred to licensed counselors for a detailed assessment. Then the health plan member will begin receiving treatment from one of our trusted partners. For outpatient care there’s Lionrock Behavioral Health, Inc., who pioneered virtual outpatient SUD treatment and continues to lead the way in virtual care with great success. If in-person treatment is needed, we offer access to our world-class partner Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Everyone has a different need. What makes our SUD program so unique, aside from its superior support, is that a health plan member can access the full spectrum of care within one program and within multiple modalities.

Now virtual care from home can happen, which removes the barrier of access and allows for far less life disruption. One-on-one sessions, support groups, and group sessions can all be handled outside of work with virtual treatments, so the person doesn’t have to leave their family or job. No matter the treatment, our program wraps its arms around the individual and gives them high-quality care and social support, surrounding them with a success-driven team that’s with them all the way.

This team of professionals will help continue treatment for however long it’s needed to achieve success and maintain recovery. This revolutionary way of treating plan members is a part of our Centers of Excellence transformation. We call it Contigo Health Centers of Excellence 360™, a first-of-its-kind, guided comprehensive care journey. It’s the next phase in making plan member care more accessible and effective.

The cost of SUD in the workplace is something that forward-thinking employers know they must address with new and innovative treatment options. To that end, the number of employers offering Centers of Excellence for SUD leapt from 20% in 2022 to 34% in 2023, and another 19% might implement it in 2024.⁸  But while SUD’s impact on the workplace is measurable in dollars and cents, it’s the impact SUD has on the lives of employees and dependents that makes up the real cost. And it’s this real cost, this immeasurable cost, that drives us to find and offer more revolutionary treatment to help get people back to living their best, most productive lives possible.

Employers offering SUD treatment leapt 20% in 2022
to 34% in 2023 and another 19% might implement in 2024.

1. Frank Diamond. 2023. “Substance Use Disorders Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Over $35B A Year: CDC Study.” Fierce Healthcare. (accessed 04/16/2023).

2. Li, Mengyao, Cora Peterson, Likang Xu, et al. 2023. “Medical Costs of Substance Use Disorders in the US Employer-Sponsored Insurance Population.” JAMA Network Open, 6(1).

3. Quit Genius. 2020. “Understanding the Employer-Facing Cost Burdens of Addiction.” (accessed 04/12/2023).

5. Health Policy Institute “Substance Abuse: Facing the Costs” (accessed 05/15/2023).

6. Health Policy Institute “Substance Abuse: Facing the Costs” (accessed 05/15/2023).

7. CDC Vitalsigns 2019 “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Preventing early trauma to improve adult health” (accessed 04/17/2023).

8. Frank Diamond. 2023. “Substance Use Disorders Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Over $35B A Year: CDC Study.” Fierce Healthcare. (accessed 04/17/2023).

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

InsideOut Podcast
June 15, 2023


On this episode of InsideOut, Michael Alkire, Premier, Inc. President and CEO, welcomes co-host Dr. Jonathan Slotkin, Contigo Health’s Chief Medical Officer and guest, Lisa Woods, Vice President, Physical and Emotional Wellbeing of Walmart to discuss their strong commitment to healthcare and the comprehensive and cost-effective benefits in place for their employees.

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© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

A new purpose-built national wrap network could minimize cost, simplify the claims process, and make out-of-network care less painful for employer-funded health plans.

The need to strike a balance between provider access and cost of care is perhaps most profound in an employer’s wrap network.


According to a national survey, employers recognize that their health benefits plans are playing a more pronounced role in attracting and retaining employees, especially since the pandemic. Two-thirds of employers consider health benefits as vitally important in their management of talent. But while employers are seeking to expand their health benefits offerings—a broader provider network being one of the most important factors—they are highly concerned about managing the cost of care. The latter point is particularly significant as most employers (60%) have seen their healthcare costs outpace inflation over the past three years and expect that trend to continue.¹

While many health plan provider networks are comprehensive, plan members still venture beyond the reach of their primary network. Whether they are traveling or close to home, employees and their dependents sometimes choose to engage providers that are not within their plan’s established network. That’s when a wrap network comes in.

Wrap networks are designed to enable access to care when plan members do opt to seek care from a specialist that is not in the health plan’s primary network. The challenge for employers is that with little or no provider fee boundaries nor sufficient pricing transparency, out-of-network care is often financially distressing to health plans and the employees and families they serve. While employers are willing to give their health plan members the choice to seek care out of network, there is also a need to establish greater cost control for that care. Unfortunately, HR decision makers tend to have little familiarity with and understanding of wrap networks.

The employers who are familiar tend to be satisfied with the breadth and quality of their wrap network but are often extremely dissatisfied with the associated expenditure. These employers consider the most important attributes of a viable wrap network solution to be controlling the cost of access to providers, pricing transparency, and cost savings greater than currently available options.

“The intent is to be able to bring more transparent network products to the market—especially in areas where transparency has been lacking, such as with out-of-network care. We are rethinking out-of-network wrap products to align them with what employers tell us they value most—cost savings and transparent pricing.”

Robin Bugni,
Contigo Health’s VP of Network Product & Development

Considering the lack of awareness and understanding of wrap networks and the level of dissatisfaction with the cost of out-of-network care, there is a significant opportunity for a better wrap network solution, one that delivers valued network breadth while also directly lowering medical claims costs through defined discounts and pricing transparency—in other words, building a wrap network that delivers on what matters most to employer-funded health plans. There is substantial employer interest in ConfigureNet™, a compelling wrap network model from Contigo Health® intended to address the access-versus-cost challenge by extending comprehensive coverage in all 50 U.S. states and across specialties while simultaneously introducing a level of cost savings through pre-negotiated provider pricing and a streamlined process that is direct to employers.

The high cost of out-of-network care

Out-of-network care has traditionally been more costly to a health plan and its members than in-network care. Out-of-network providers have had the freedom to charge higher rates since they are not bound by the health plan’s contracted primary provider network reimbursement. Out-of-network providers have no obligation to accept the reimbursement amount the health plan is willing to pay its in-network providers. This commonly leads to the practice of balance billing, where the provider charges the patient an amount above what the health plan paid and up to the provider’s originally billed amount. This can be an unpleasant surprise to health plan members and the health plan itself.

Beyond the provider reimbursement difference, the medical claims repricing progression often involves multiple intermediaries providing various services for which each can take its own administrative fee, adding more unexpected administrative cost to the health plan.

Contigo Health, LLC, as an architect of financially sustainable healthcare, has taken steps to identify a key area where a more contemporary model with real cost controls and pricing transparency could help employers address the care and cost imbalance of out-of-network care.

A survey about wrap networks

To gain a better understanding of current perceptions about wrap networks, and to reveal what gaps and opportunities there may be to improve those networks, a study was conducted by Stonegate in April of 2022.²

The survey focused primarily on input from health system employers—specifically HR decision makers and health system executives. This audience represents leadership in healthcare delivery, intimate knowledge of healthcare infrastructure and pricing, and perspective as one of the largest employers in a market. The findings complement broader industry studies regarding employer perceptions of care versus cost. The results revealed four distinct areas of interest for anyone desiring to create a better wrap network solution for their health plan.

How familiar are you with the word “wrap network”?*

*Sample size is 25.

Familiar (familiar) – 60%
Very Unfamiliar (somewhat to very) – 28%
Very Familiar (somewhat to very) – 12%

Nearly half (46%) of HR decision makers indicated they are neutral to extremely dissatisfied with the cost of their wrap network access.

Four things that employers should know about wrap networks

1. Health plan decision makers don’t tend to understand wrap networks.

An interesting discovery from the Stonegate study is that employers, by and large, do not appear to have a strong awareness of wrap networks, let alone an understanding of the costs associated with such networks. Among the HR decision makers surveyed:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 (28%) are very unfamiliar with the term “wrap network.”
  • Most (57%) admitted they don’t understand the costs associated with their current wrap network. Just 43% said that they definitely understand the costs.

This gap in understanding is an opportunity for a new wrap network solution that can deliver needed clarity, consistency, simplicity, and support. For those that do have an understanding of their wrap networks, the study revealed some valuable insight into what matters most to them, as is revealed in the next sections.

2. Breadth and quality get high marks. Cost, not so much.

The Stonegate-conducted study asked employers to identify the best and worst attributes of their current wrap network. The survey revealed that health plan decision makers are largely satisfied with their current wrap networks when it comes to the breadth and quality of network access.

  • 85% are extremely satisfied with the extent of their wrap network
  • 85% are extremely satisfied with the quality of network access

HR decision makers identified the following as the most important wrap network access and quality attributes.

Importance of access and quality attributes to HR decision makers

As encouraging as that is, employers are clearly less than satisfied and more concerned with the cost of that access. In fact, cost is the highest area of dissatisfaction among health system employers surveyed specific to wrap networks. Nearly half (46%) of HR decision makers indicated they are neutral to extremely dissatisfied with the cost of their wrap network access. That percentage may be conservative considering, in section 1, it was revealed that 57% of HR decision makers surveyed do not even understand the costs associated with their wrap networks.

3. It comes down to economics.

The aspects of a wrap network that rose to the top among health plan decision makers surveyed by Stonegate consistently involved three areas: cost containment, pricing transparency, and cost savings. These are the characteristics identified as VERY IMPORTANT to employers:

  • 100% indicated cost-containment when accessing out-of-network providers
  • 100% emphasized pricing transparency
  • 92% want more savings than what’s currently available
  • 92% want a configurable wrap solution that meets their specific needs

Importance of economic wrap network attributes to HR decision makers


In consideration of the first three core study findings listed above, it is evident there is call for a more suitable wrap network solution for employers than is currently available. A better wrap network product would directly address employers’ cost concerns without compromising their plan’s access to care. The optimal solution would deliver on all the things that matter most to employers, including breadth and depth of their wrap network access, plus significant cost savings beyond the industry status quo, along with much-needed pricing transparency—in other words, securing the lowest possible price and eliminating unexpected charges without compromising access to care.

“Contigo Health’s charge is to be the architect of better, more sustainable healthcare. We are building the foundation for future network structures from the ground up by helping to reduce the cost of out-of-network care, should people need it.”

Steven Nelson, President,
Contigo Health

4. One solution is showing great promise.

There is significant interest among health system HR decision makers and executives in a new wrap network product pioneered by Contigo Health. Known as Contigo Health® ConfigureNet™, this contemporary wrap network product is structured to provide the coast-to-coast national coverage and key specialties that employers value highly. The wrap is differentiated in that it has been designed to introduce significantly discounted provider rates and a high level of pricing transparency, combining to enable a level of cost savings greater than what is currently available in the market. As the name suggests, ConfigureNet™ is also designed to eventually become configurable to meet the distinct needs of individual employers.

Developed specifically to meet the needs most emphasized by employers, ConfigureNet™ provides health plans with robust out-of-network provider access at a lower cost. The following features directly address those expressed needs:

Broad network coverage spanning all 50 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico

Pre-negotiated contracted discounts with 900,000 U.S. providers and 4.3 million U.S. locations

Better negotiated rates and greater savings 

Contractual protection from surprise balance billing

Claims repriced promptly to contracted rate—no additional handling or unwarranted additional fees

ConfigureNet™ introduces nationwide access to contracted healthcare providers with pre-negotiated discounts in place for a full range of provider services including:



70% of executives and 67% of HR decision makers find the ConfigureNet™ wrap network concept very appealing.

A majority of Stonegate survey respondents find the ConfigureNet™ wrap network concept very appealing.

How executives view the ConfigureNet™ wrap network concept

How HR decision makers view the ConfigureNet™ wrap network concept

Contigo Health’s ConfigureNet™ out-of-network wrap solution has tremendous appeal because it addresses employers’ most pressing wrap network concerns while presenting features that matter most. Fifty percent of surveyed executives would definitely consider switching their wrap network if doing so would provide financial benefits to their organization. A third of HR decision makers and 30% of executives would consider carving out their wrap network from their current plan.


Health benefits—including expanded out-of-network coverage—are increasingly important to employers as they place greater emphasis on attracting and retaining talent. Even so, they have serious concerns about managing the rising costs associated with those benefits, especially the high cost of out-of-network care.

Unfortunately, many employer-funded health plan decision makers and executives are either unaware of their wrap network or do not understand it. But compelling gaps in current wrap networks have been revealed in recent data, indicating there are attractive opportunities to provide employers with a better, more viable out-of-network solution that addresses the distinct attributes and performance characteristics decision makers have indicated are most important to them.

Employers who have a more thorough understanding of wrap networks appreciate the breadth of their current plans’ access to out-of-network care but, at the same time, are frustrated by the associated costs and lack of transparency. They would welcome a solution that substantially cuts their out-of-network costs without compromising valued access to care. Contigo Health’s new ConfigureNet™ wrap network appeals broadly because it is designed to give health plan decision makers more control of their wrap network. ConfigureNet™ preserves the merits of a broad and robust provider network (what employers like) while substantially controlling costs (what employers want). This is accomplished through contracts with 900,000 U.S. providers and more than four million locations coast-to-coast, and introduces pre-negotiated discounts, pricing transparency, and a streamlined process that can cut unwarranted additional fees. It can empower health plan administrators to impact their organization’s bottom lines while enhancing access and choice for their health plan members.

What solution will you bring to your health plan?

ConfigureNet™ has tremendous appeal to employers because it addresses their most significant wrap network concerns directly and delivers the attributes that matter most. Fifty percent of executives surveyed would “definitely consider switching” their wrap network if doing so would have financial benefits for their organization. That is why 37% of executives expressed they would be very interested in a no-cost consultation to compare the costs of ConfigureNet™ to their existing wrap network.

Leveraging its ConfigureNet™ nationwide provider network, Contigo Health has also created ConfigureNet™ Price Advantage, a flexible plug-in that gives employers a smart, “on-demand” repricing solution when and where it is needed most. It can be implemented as their dedicated
out-of-network cost-containment solution, or configured as a cost-saving option to expand the power of out-of-network cost containment solutions that may already be in place. Price Advantage was designed to be a no-risk, no obligation alternative.

See how Contigo Health can help you establish clear savings on your out-of-network wrap by conducting a complimentary out-of-network wrap cost analysis for each.

How it works:

1. You share health plan claims data

2. Contigo Health analyzes the health plan’s existing out-of-network claims data for the past year and identifies savings potential (two-week turnaround)

3. We meet to review and discuss savings opportunity and quote

4. Contigo Health creates a contract to make an easy and frictionless switch

For more information, contact Britt Hayes, Contigo Health’s Chief Commercial Officer at, or call 330-656-1072.

1. Aditya Gupta, Nikhil Mahajan, Carolina Malcher, Monica Qian, Matthew Scally, and Jeris Stueland, “Employers Look to Expand Health Benefits While Managing Medical Costs,” McKinsey & Company Employer Health Benefits Survey (May 25, 2022) source
2. ConfigureNetTM and Beckers, Health Plan Wrap Networks Perceptions survey (conducted by Stonegate), April 2022

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

April 20, 2023

At HIMSS23, panelists discussed health systems’ financial challenges as labor costs rise and the population ages.

By Emily Olsen

Health systems are facing a difficult financial future as labor costs soar and the population ages, increasing demand just as hospitals have less resources to serve them, said panelists at the 2023 HIMSS Global Health Conference & Exhibition.

Kaveh Safavi, senior managing director of healthcare at Accenture, is concerned access is going to become a much bigger issue. Though he’s hopeful that technology like generative AI could ease some of the documentation and administrative burden on providers, that future might not come soon enough.

“I actually think that tech is going to give us an answer. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to take advantage of it as quickly as we need to,” he said.

Cris Ross, chief information officer at the Mayo Clinic, said he thinks technology like ChatGPT will gain traction, but he’s not ready to unleash it yet. For one, the technology sometimes confidently spouts false information.

And he argues many health systems simply won’t be able to take advantage of the technology at all.

“I think for many, many health systems for whom their IT department is the phone call to their EHR vendor, they don’t have the wherewithal to invest in sophisticated technologies,” he said. “And it’s going to have to be the hyperscale companies that can assist them because they can do things at scale.”

Larry Leisure, founder and managing director of Chicago Pacific Founders, said the increasing cost of healthcare may soon come to a head. Employers simply can’t push costs onto their employees any more.

“For a whole swath of lower and middle income workers, they can’t afford deductibles and coinsurance,” he said. “And so this notion that we’re going to be able to do some additional cost shifting is highly problematic.”

Steven Nelson, president of Contigo Health, said the industry frequently talks about how patients are acting more like consumers, but many aren’t very engaged, only checking into their benefits at the very last minute.

“I think it’s going to be hard to refresh the consumer and get them to take concern unless they’re chronically ill and it’s that meaningful, unless they have a substance use disorder problem, unless they have a diagnosis or something with their family member,” he said. “I just think it takes something else to get everybody at the table. Even in this conference, are we really, truly engaged in our benefits to reduce that demand? I don’t know if we are.”

But Safavi argues the idea that demand for healthcare can be easily prevented is an “appealing mythology.” Many diseases are driven by genetic and social factors, and the healthcare system will struggle to address some of the nation’s biggest public health concerns, like gun violence.

“These are super complicated. It’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors that happen in certain sequences. Making good life choices may or may not work,” he said. “There are so many things that are going into it, to me it’s just harder and harder to have confidence that if you just live a good life it’s going to be enough.”


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© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

As a forerunner in the centers of excellence category, Contigo Health® now brings to market our new substance use disorder program, which surrounds and supports individuals seeking treatment.

For reasons almost too numerous to count, including the most recent pandemic, substance use disorders, or SUDs, have been on a steady rise in the workplace and beyond. Whether it be the lasting effects of the pandemic or the changing family and socioeconomic dynamics facing our communities, we must look at this not as an individual problem but rather as a problem gripping us all.

70.4% of all adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder are employed,1 and 1 in 7 Americans will experience a substance use disorder.² According to one national survey in 2021, Americans’ substance use has increased 30% overall since the start of the pandemic.4

The numbers back this up: 70.4% of all adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder are employed,¹ and 1 in 7 Americans will experience a substance use disorder.² And it’s staggering to think that 10% to 15% of those in healthcare will misuse substances during their lifetime.³

According to one national survey in 2021, Americans’ substance use has increased 30% overall since the start of the pandemic.⁴ These numbers should startle us and make us realize that reframing the conversation around substance use disorder isn’t something we need to do but rather something we have to do.


It’s once again clear that SUD involves us all.


It’s driven by a positive workplace culture that begins and ends with employers making employees comfortable and aware of their particular policy and its positive effects.


Let’s understand how SUDs are affecting the workplace.

According to the National Safety Council, the impact of substance use disorders on the workplace is considerable. Some studies place the base cost for employers to recruit and train replacement workers at a third of a worker’s annual salary, with additional costs to the employer totaling roughly half that salary when all is said and done. In some sectors with higher average salaries, this cost can be even greater.⁵

The costs for employers who have employees with untreated SUDs is also eye-opening. The annual attributable medical expenditure of a SUD diagnosis for employer-sponsored insurance was found to be $15,640 per affected enrollee and a staggering $35.3 billion in the population. Alcohol-related disorders ($10.2 billion) and opioid-related disorders ($7.3 billion) were the most costly.⁶

In addition, almost 9% of working adults have a substance use disorder, with alcohol use and cannabis use disorders being the most common. Rates of SUDs are higher in industries like construction, trucking, and mining. Industries with easy access to alcohol, like entertainment and food service, also have higher SUD rates.⁵

Changing the stigma surrounding SUDs needs to be a goal.

For far too long, society—and especially the workplace—has seen those suffering from substance use disorders as having a moral failing. The perception that this disorder is a choice needs to change. We need to look at substance use disorders not as a personal failure but as a serious health problem on par with other unmanaged chronic conditions like diabetes and COPD. This reality—long understood by SUD treatment professionals but still new to many—has to be driven home by employers. If a drug-free workplace and healthier employees are the goals, success rests firmly in the lap of employers, who must be advocates for their employees, a significant number of whom may be suffering in silence due to fear of losing their jobs.

After all, an effective policy isn’t something that just happens—it’s driven by a positive workplace culture that begins and ends with employers making employees comfortable and aware of their particular policy and its positive effects.

The bottom line is that employers need a way to offer access to confidential treatment that gives employees the privacy to seek the care they need without fear of losing their jobs or wages.

Changing the conversation around SUDs in the workplace is something we take very seriously at Contigo Health, and it’s why we are pioneering and building a treatment program that’s everything traditional programs have failed to be.

Together, we can all create a more accepting workplace environment.

We can all encourage each other while in the workplace to be strong advocates for our fellow employees who may need support. Seeing those who are struggling as people first—people with a treatable illness—is a step toward helping them on their road to recovery. Regardless, the emphasis should never be on judging a person or looking down on them from a moral high ground but rather on helping them seek the treatment best suited for their success.

The bottom line is that employers need a way to offer access to confidential treatment that gives employees the privacy to seek the care they need without fear of losing their jobs or wages.

At Contigo Health®, we’re helping to change the conversation around SUDs by offering a revolutionary new approach to treating them.

Changing the conversation around SUDs in the workplace is something we take very seriously at Contigo Health, and it’s why we are pioneering and building a treatment program that’s everything traditional programs have failed to be. For one, it’s discreet, allowing employees to work without having to share personal struggles with their employer in industries that don’t have mandatory drug screening, possibly motivating individuals who may not have reached out for help before.

It’s practical, allowing a person to seek care while continuing to work and live at home. And above all, it’s accepting. Our program welcomes all with open arms and gives special consideration to members of the LGBTQIA+ community and diverse populations.

So how does it work?

Immediate support is provided 24/7 from our trusted partner, Lionrock Behavioral Health, Inc., who pioneered virtual outpatient SUD treatment and continues to lead the way in virtual, in-home care. A health plan member will be referred to a licensed counselor to determine the right level of treatment.

What makes our SUD program so unique, aside from the promise of incredible support within an hour, is that our health plan members can access our revolutionary hybrid treatment plan and get residential inpatient care, outpatient care, or virtual outpatient care, depending on their individual needs. Now a person can participate in treatment virtually from home, which removes one of the biggest barriers to treatment: access. Virtual one-on-one meetings and group sessions can all be handled outside of work so the person doesn’t have to leave their family or job, causing less disruption in their lives.

Those with more complex needs—e.g., co-occurring mental health concerns, medication management, and/or a higher-severity SUD—can also access treatment through our world-class and renowned collaborator, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.


The impact of substance use disorders is far-reaching.

No one is untouched. But together, we can help change the conversation surrounding them and combat the stigmas and preconceived notions that traditional workplaces and treatment plans have often held.

Regardless of the determined pathway, what this program does differently is wrap its arms around the individual, providing not just high-quality care for a predetermined period of time but surrounding them with a team. This team will help continue treatment for however long is necessary to achieve success and maintain recovery. In other words, a person receiving treatment isn’t left to go it alone once they exit the program. This new approach to SUDs is something that hasn’t traditionally been offered by many carriers, which has often left employers with a hole in their healthcare plan and employees with untreated SUDs left wondering.

This new way of treating members is a part of our transformation of Contigo Health Centers of Excellence 360™. We’re creating a first-of-its-kind, guided comprehensive care journey. This program is the next phase in making patient care even better. The impact of substance use disorders is far-reaching. No one is untouched. But together, we can help change the conversation surrounding SUDs and combat the stigmas and preconceived notions that traditional workplaces and treatment plans have often held. Because it’s time—time we wrap our arms around those who are suffering and give them the dignity and respect that a person ailing from a true health condition deserves.

For more information, contact Britt Hayes, Contigo Health’s Chief Commercial Officer, at, or call 330-656-1072.

1.  Frone, M. R., L. C. Chosewood, J. C. Osborne, et al. 2022. “Workplace Supported Recovery from Substance Use Disorders: Defining the Construct, Developing a Model, and Proposing an Agenda for Future Research.” Occupational Health Science 6: 475–511.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. “Stigma Reduction.”

3. Butler Center for Research. June 1, 2015. “Health Care Professionals: Addiction and Treatment.”

4. Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. 2021. “Americans Increasing Substance Use to Cope with Mental Strain; Parents at Highest Risk.”

5. National Safety Council. Accessed January 12, 2023. “Implications of Drug Use for Employers.”

6. Li, M., Peterson, C., Xu, L., Mikosz, C. A., & Luo, F. “Medical costs of substance use disorders in the US employer-sponsored insurance population.” JAMA Network Open, 6(1). January 24, 2023.

© 2023. Contigo Health, LLC. All rights reserved.

Empowered Patient Podcast
May 30th, 2023

Heather Ridenoure, Center of Excellence Segment Leader, and Maeve Ruggieri,  the Director of Product at Contigo Health, shine a light on the challenge of employee substance use disorder and the resources available for care. This chronic disease can be caused by adverse childhood events, genetic predisposition, stress, and environmental factors. Contigo addresses any substance that can be abused through their Centers for Excellence program with virtual care and in-person care options where participation is voluntary and can be accessed 24/7.

Heather explains, “As far as how frequently this occurs, the newest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control said one in seven people have a substance use disorder. That’s new data, and that’s been increasing by 30% since the pandemic, which is pretty significant. So, this is one of the reasons we struck out on a journey to try to address some of these issues.”

Maeve elaborates, “As Heather mentioned, substance use disorder being a chronic disease, is something that causes clinically significant impairment. So that may or may not be visible to an employer in the workplace. Their employees may seem like they are high performers or be high performers and not be showing the stereotypical signs of substance use disorder, things that we may see from TV or movies, like erratic behavior, things even down to missing deadlines.”

“But what’s so important is having the member be ready to participate themselves. This program is rooted in shared decision-making between the member and the providers, and our team at Contigo, who’s doing a lot of care and case management and support. And if the member is not ready to participate, to explore recovery and manage their substance use disorder, then it’s not time yet.”

Download the transcript here


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