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In this week’s Friday Five, MAXIMUS is reading about how large employers are looking to control healthcare costs, new funding for substance abuse treatment, progress on government IT modernization, and how coordinating mental and physical healthcare could help improve health outcomes and lower costs.

1. Large employers look to virtual care to tackle high-cost claims in 2020, survey finds  

Large employers, who typically pay for 70% of employee healthcare expenses, are increasingly looking for ways to lower costs. According to Healthcare Dive, the total cost of healthcare benefits is expected to rise another 5% in 2020, bringing the estimated cost per employee to more than $15,000. The majority of large employers plan to increase the virtual mental health and other telehealth services they offer in 2020. Employers also identified high-cost prescription drugs as a major concern.

2. HRSA gives $400M to combat opioids through Integrated Behavioral Health Services

As part of a larger strategy to address the opioid epidemic, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will award nearly $400 million to increase the integration of substance abuse and mental health services. Healthcare IT News reports that the funding will go to community health centers, rural providers, and academic institutions funded by HRSA and reflects the increased number of patients with substance abuse disorders that these facilities have been treating. HRSA is also providing funding to expand the opioid workforce and specifically focus on rural communities.

3. IRS tries agile acquisition for data tools 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is rolling out a pilot program to help the agency acquire new technology to automate and refine data. FCW reports the new procurement vehicle is designed to support innovation by creating a “sandbox” outside of the traditional procurement process. Pilot IRS will release a series of $7 million challenges to the public that focus on different technologies or areas of concern the agency wants to explore.

4. FITARA, FedRAMP among Congressional IT modernization priorities

In this article, Government CIO Media recaps recent comments from Rep. Gerry Connolly, chairman of the IT Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee. Connolly discusses his support for ongoing data center consolidation, strategies for innovation, continued use of the FITARA scorecard to measure progress, reduce maintenance costs, free up funding for modernization efforts, and improve the risk and authorization process.

5. Coordinating care of mind and body might help Medicaid save money and lives 

Tennessee has been experimenting with a program that provides bonuses to mental health providers who also help coordinate and guide patients’ physical healthcare. According to Kaiser Health News, this coordination for dual-track patients could save hundreds of dollars annually per patient and has already decreased emergency room visits. Patients with both chronic diseases and mental health issues tend to die at younger ages, so care coordination and a focus on prevention may help patients lead longer, healthier lives.