Disney contracts directly with Orlando Health, Florida Hospital for new HMO plans

Health insurance benefits form
Disney will work directly with Orlando Health and Florida Hospital to offer health benefits. (Getty/michaelquirk)

Disney will bypass insurers and join forces with Orlando-area hospitals to provide health benefits to its employees in the region. The move comes in the wake of a new venture from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan that has already stirred fears about disrupting the employer-based insurance market.

Disney will contract directly with Orlando Health and Florida Hospital to offer HMO plans to its 70,000 employees in the area, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Employees will have the option to choose between a plan that provides services at Orlando Health and a plan that provides services at Florida Hospital, and in the partnership the hospitals have agreed to take on same risk and provide services to Disney employees at a lower cost.

The corporation said in a statement to the newspaper that new plans are part of its commitment to offering staffers "high-quality healthcare options at an affordable price." Orlando Health and Florida Hospital declined to comment on the partnership. 

Insurance industry experts told the Sentinel that the new plans are likely how Disney kept its insurance costs in line with previous years. Disney employees, however, said they weren't fully informed on how the plans could impact their choices and didn't realize the HMO plans had such narrow networks.

RELATED: Americans with employer-sponsored insurance are spending more on healthcare despite spending less

Independent physicians in Orlando have already felt the impact of the new plans, as they're now out of network for many patients they used to treat. Orlando Immunity Center, for instance, has lost nearly 200 patients since the Disney's HMOs went into effect at the beginning of 2018, according to the article, which has advocates concerned that these practices may not be able to maintain their independence for much longer.

Marni Jameson Carey, executive director of the Association of Independent Doctors, said she has been in contact with Disney on behalf of her group's members. A quarter of physician practices are now owned by hospitals, and those that remain independent face their own challenges, like lower reimbursements than their hospital-owned counterparts.

Employers are also increasingly looking to contract with providers, like large hospital chains, to reduce their insurance costs and offer more value to employees. 

RELATED: Should insurers be worried about Amazon’s entry into healthcare?

That Disney would adopt that approach was revealed as some experts wager Amazon and its partners may do the same. Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced last week that they would enter the healthcare industry, though details have been limited on exact plans of the three companies. 

Lyndean Brick, CEO of consulting firm The Advis Group, told FierceHealthcare that the announcement should push insurers to consider innovating their plans. JPMorgan's insurance industry clients were concerned about how the deal may impact them, but sources told The Wall Street Journal that the venture would only serve the companies' employees and thus wouldn't compete directly with insurers. 

However, the three companies said in the initial announcement that they want to "create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans"—hinting at the potential to expand in the future. 

RELATED: New Amazon venture not a threat, Cigna CEO tells investors 

Though these megacorporations may disrupt the traditional employer-based insurance sphere, many enrollees are satisfied with the coverage they receive through their jobs, according to a new survey released by America's Health Insurance Plans.

AHIP polled 1,000 adults with employer-sponsored health plans and found that 71% are satisfied with their current health insurance. Sixty-three percent said they were satisfied with the health insurance system more broadly. 

More than half (52%) said their deductibles and premiums are reasonable, and 60% said their healthcare costs are reasonable. However, they don't necessarily think that's true for everyone—66% of those surveyed said healthcare costs for the typical American are too high. 

"Employer-provided insurance is a pillar of American's health and financial security," Marilyn Tavenner, CEO of AHIP, said in an announcement. "The results reaffirm that American workers and their families depend on their coverage to provide them with protection and peace of mind."