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Aug 17, 2023

This summer short is about the dynamic between payers and providers. An opening point that Jacob Asher, MD, my guest in this healthcare podcast, makes in the interview that follows is that, for a payer, it’s super hard to competitively differentiate from both a cost and/or a quality perspective when you and all of your payer competition use the exact same PPO (preferred provider organization) networks. I mean, what? Are these same exact doctors gonna somehow do a better job with your members than with the rest of their patients?

This is even more true if you think about this from a physician or a practice point of view. Will clinical teams in their clinical workflow figure out who your members are, first of all, which is a thing, and then switch up what they choose to do for your members that is special? Even theoretically, that sounds like an executional fandango, which is exacerbated in markets with lots of payers.

I guess I am not shocked when I hear stories like Dr. Asher was talking about: Doctor sits down at desk after a long day and sees 27 “Dear Doctor” letters from all of the payers in his or her payer mix. “Hey, Doc. Let me tell you about our amazing new thing.”

And Doc’s like, “Pajama time awaits.” And—boom!—the letters, unopened, right in the recycle bin. From a payer’s standpoint, back to square one, I guess.

Now, I will chuck in the mix here—and this has nothing to do with the conversation with Dr. Asher that follows—but one thing I’ve spent my entire career doing is helping organizations set up programs to collaborate with other organizations. If I authentically solve an actual, authentic, prioritized problem, I usually can find many people who seem pretty pleased to work with me.

Now, is this easy to do? No. It takes strategic thinking and executional competence and/or grit to see it through. You really have to understand and account for vested interests and all the weird perverse incentives. Personally, I gotta work with a whole team of others coming at this from all different directions to untie this Gordian knot.

But anyone who really wants to or needs to reach across the aisle and engage with other stakeholders or customers, even in any sort of systemic way, it’s just not possible to phone it in.

Anyway, I just want everyone to succeed in working together. It is impossible to have a longitudinal patient journey if everybody is all up in their own silos fragmenting care.


You can learn more by connecting with Dr. Asher on LinkedIn.


Jacob Asher, MD, completed a residency in otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, after receiving degrees from Brown University and the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Asher then practiced as an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) surgeon with Kaiser Permanente in Northern California and also served on the board of directors of The Permanente Medical Group, where he focused on physician compensation reform, member satisfaction initiatives, and retirement benefits.

After transitioning to full-time health plan management, Dr. Asher served as a California commercial market medical director between 2008 and 2022 for Anthem Blue Cross, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare. In those roles, he supported membership growth and retention in both fully insured and self-funded product lines and promoted value-based reimbursement, including capitation.

He has led utilization management teams, collaborated with internal and external population healthcare advocates, and worked to develop clinical initiatives that sought to achieve the Triple Aim. In his role as the clinical face of the health plan to the local market, he worked with network colleagues on accountable care organization partnerships and hospital and physician contract renewals with integrated pay for performance, supported Obamacare exchange participation, engaged in quality improvement collaboratives, and supported regulatory compliance efforts.

Currently, Dr. Asher is serving as a mentor for the Stanford Master in Medical Informatics program while exploring innovative solutions to healthcare delivery.


03:38 Why providers contracted with multiple health plans don’t have a financial incentive to do something unique with one payer over another.

04:01 Why it doesn’t make sense for providers to offer unique pathways for different payer organizations.

05:23 Why, broadly speaking, standards of care between payer policies aren’t really differentiators in clinical practice.

06:47 Why financial incentives might not be aligned to make providers want to standardize their care.

09:16 What improvement has there been in plans making providers more aware of the benefits they offer?

11:47 Why won’t providers off-load their pop health?


You can learn more by connecting with Dr. Asher on LinkedIn.


@JacobAsher18 discusses #payers and #providers on our #healthcarepodcast. #healthcare #podcast


Recent past interviews:

Click a guest’s name for their latest RHV episode!

Eric Gallagher (Summer Shorts 4), Dan Serrano, Larry Bauer, Dr Vivek Garg (Summer Shorts 3), Dr Scott Conard (Summer Shorts 2), Brennan Bilberry (Summer Shorts 1), Stacey Richter (INBW38), Scott Haas, Chris Deacon, Dr Vivek Garg