2013 in review: Quality, costs still matter

Last year, accountable care organizations easily won the distinction of most popular FierceHealthPayer topic in 2012. Only two stories about health insurance exchanges made an appearance on that most-read list.

What a difference a year makes. In 2013, all eyes were squarely on healthcare reform and health insurance exchanges. From the technical glitch-plagued federal exchange rollout to exchange enrollment challenges to concerns about young adults to states' Medicaid expansion decisions, 2013 has been the year of reform and exchanges for the health insurance industry.

But despite such an overwhelming focus on exchanges, the top story that dominated this year's FierceHealthPayer headlines had nothing to do with reform or the online marketplaces. It was about how UnitedHealth considered cutting Medicare Advantage benefits in 2014 as the insurer prepared for up to 4 percent lower payments to the program.

The second and third most popular FierceHealthPayer stories of 2013 focused on WellPoint's plans to include coverage of telemedicine services in its employer and individual plans and Health Care Service Corporation's medical home program that reduced costs by as much as 20 percent for certain members. FierceHealthPayer readers also showed interest in learning about seven trends happening in healthcare fraud.

It's not until the fifth most read story of this year that exchanges appear--and that was in a piece outlining key healthcare deadlines facing healthcare organizations, some of which have nothing to do with reform or exchanges. 

ACOs show up once in the most-read list, thanks to a story about how Aetna empowers its ACO providers with data. Although it wasn't the hands-down favorite topic of the year, ACOs clearly still hold strong interest throughout the health insurance industry.

The only other reform-related story among the most read on FierceHealthPayer covered Internal Revenue Service penalties for consumers who don't obtain insurance coverage. Again, this doesn't focus on exchanges or any of the changes insurers face in the post-reform market.

To round out the list of stories you thought were the most important this year, an exclusive interview with Cigna about how its post-discharge calls have helped lower readmissions drew a lot of attention.

Looking back on these most popular FierceHealthPayer stories, it's clear our readers still value reporting on good, old-fashioned health insurance topics--how to increase quality while lowering costs.