Marsh & McLennan Agency Blog

How Medical 3D Printing is Transforming the Health Care Industry

3D printing has come a long way in the past few years. Right now, the best things to print on a 3D printer are small, customized and expensive, which makes medicine a prime sector for 3D printing. It is therefore not surprising that a 2013 Morgan Stanley blue paper on medical technology (the technically oriented version of a white paper) found that nearly 40 percent of patent applications were in 3D medical printing.

Ultrasound magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) data has increasingly been used by doctors to make medical models that assist in the planning and practice of surgery. For example, a Japanese company has developed a process called bio texture modeling. This uses material jetting to make 3D prints that simulate the wetness and texture of human organs, making body parts actually feel organic to the touch. These 3D printed parts allow a surgeon to see scar tissue and cancers inside an organ. They can be dissected to practice an operation before cutting into a patient.

Flesh 3D printed medical models can also assist in the fabrication of custom prosthetics. For example, partial facial flexible masks that include teeth have been printed to allow patients who have lost part of their face to eat and drink in a normal fashion.

An increasing number of people wear external prosthesis manufactured in whole or part by 3D printers. Prosthetic legs with 3D printed fairings, 3D printed foot shells and customized artificial limb components are some of the ways 3D printing is improving the lives of patients.

Bone replacement parts can be printed out of calcium carbonate, which is a bony-like material. Calcium carbonate can be mixed with different materials, making it softer like your lower body bones or harder like your upper body bones.

3-D printers are useful for modeling. For example, computed tomography (CT) scan data can be used as a pattern for 3-D printing. Hospitals will soon be able to upload CT scan data into a simulator and print out a simulated body part that can be used for practice by a surgeon or intern before surgery. This technology is currently being applied to angiography. Surgeons and cardiologists are using the simulated body part to practice a procedure given the particular body parts of an individual.

Electron beam melting is being used to produce medical implants, such as artificial hips that attach to a patient’s pelvis. These custom 3D hips are printed in titanium and have a unique porous surface structure that cannot be fabricated using traditional manufacturing methods. The unique surface provides the best long-term solution as the patient’s bone actually grows into it. Other bones that have been repaired or replaced with customized metal 3D prints including a titanium replacement jaw.

Entering the mainstream, 3D printing is rapidly facilitating digital dentistry. For example, a range of 3D printers has been developed that can create wax stocks using wax deposition modeling technology, as well as orthodontic appliances and surgical guides. Using its polar jet materials and jetting process, 3D printers produce very high resolution smooth surface prints that can be matched to make realistic veneer models. Other dental 3D printing pioneers include 3D systems that assist in the production of aligners, drill guides, bridges, crowns and temporary teeth.

Another medical sector being transformed by 3D printing is the manufacture of personalized hearing aid casings. The hardware of each of these casings will perfectly fit inside the patient’s ear. According to the Harvard Business Review, it took less than 500 days for all companies that produces custom hearing aid shells to switch from traditional methods to 3D printing.

In the future bio printing will facilitate the 3D print out of organic tissues, such as bio-ink spheroids each containing tens of thousands of living cells. They will be 3D printed in two layers of a protective material. After they are printed out they will rearrange into functional tissue for human transplantation. Already, early pioneers have bio printed sections of muscle, human arteries, human skin and nerve grafts. Medial 3D printing has advanced significantly in recent years with a market that is predicted to be worth nearly $1 billion by 2019.

How will 3D printing impact business risk in the coming years? Contact MMA and learn how your business can stay protected.

IRS Updates Employer Mandate FAQs, Indicates that Penalty Letters are Imminent

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated its list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility provisions – also known as the “pay or play” mandate. In particular, questions 55 through 58 provide guidance for employers who may be subject to shared responsibility payments. The FAQs indicate that the IRS will begin sending penalty letters to applicable large employers (ALEs) that owe penalties for calendar year 2015 “in late 2017.” Around this time last year, the IRS had indicated that penalty letters for 2015 would be coming “in early 2017;” however, those letters never materialized. Based on the latest update to its FAQs, it appears that the IRS has worked out the kinks in its systems and is prepared to begin sending penalty letters.

Read the full compliance update…

How Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality will Disrupt the Real Estate Industry

If you’ve ever shopped for a new house or apartment, you know how frustrating it can be. Salesy real estate agents, spending hours reviewing listings, missing open house events and wasting Sunday afternoons can make for a distasteful and stressful task. All of this is about to change as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality become integrated into the way consumers buy real estate.

In the future, real estate shopping will look very different. Most, if not all, of your shopping experience will be done from the comfort of your own home, in virtual reality, wearing virtual headgear. You will be able to tour a home at any time, day or night, 24/7. And you will be able to view real estate anywhere in the world. You can ask a virtual agent to give you a guided tour of the house and property and can tell you the history of the house and its features. Continue reading…

FBI Warns Health Care Industry – Target for Cyber Attacks

The FBI has warned health care organizations they are being targeted by cyber hackers. Major cyber attacks on health care grew by 63 percent in 2016. Some of the largest attacks included:

  • BannerHealth (3.6M records),
  • Newkirk Products (3.4M records),
  • 21st Century Oncology (2.2M records), and
  • Valley Anesthesiology Consultants (0.88M records.)

Continue reading…

IRS Increases Health FSA Contribution Limit for 2018, Adjusts Other Benefit Limits

On October 20, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2017-58, which raises the health Flexible Spending Account (FSA) salary reduction contribution limit by $50 to $2,650 for plan years beginning in 2018. The Revenue Procedure also contains the cost-of-living adjustments that apply to dollar limitations in certain sections of the Internal Revenue Code. The following summarizes other adjustments relevant to individuals and employer sponsors of welfare and fringe benefit plans.

Read the full compliance update…

Passenger Drones Present Emerging Challenges for the Insurance Industry

A recent unveiling of a manned drone by the company Passenger Drones has advanced the concept of personal aircraft from the imaginary distant future to a certain reality. Last week, Passenger Drones unveiled its version of a two-person passenger aircraft that is successfully flying passengers. The car-sized drone is powered by 16 individual motors paired with propellers for stability purposes. The company plans to start producing the manned drones commercially next year.

The company is focused on producing its lightweight drone that can fly autonomously. It can also be maneuvered or controlled remotely. The company plans to build more prototypes and log additional flight hours before moving forward with their commercial production plans.

There are other companies like EHang, Airbus and Volocopter that are working on their versions of passenger drones. Manned drones can carry 200 lbs of payload and cruise at a speed of more than 35 miles per hour. They are designed to fly at 11,500 feet above sea level, making them ideal for short or medium distance transportation. Continue reading…

President Trump Issues Executive Order on ACA

On October 12, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the federal agencies in charge of implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to propose new regulations or revise existing guidance to expand access to association health plans (AHPs), short-term insurance plans, and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). While the order directs the agencies to consider changes that would have a sweeping effect on the health insurance industry, it has no immediate effect – any changes in rules or regulation will be subject to standard notice and comment periods.

Separately, the President intends to stop the government’s reimbursement of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments made by insurance carriers that participate in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces. A letter from Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicated that payments will stop immediately, effective with the payment scheduled for October 18, 2017. The move resulted in a lawsuit filed on October 13, 2017, in federal court in the Northern District of California by a coalition of nearly twenty states against the Trump administration seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring that the CSR payments continue to be made. If the CSR payments are not continued by Congress (by appropriating funds for the payments) or through judicial action (by finding that the ACA contains a permanent appropriation for the payments), it will have a much more immediate and disruptive effect on the individual market than the Executive Order. It may also impact the small and large group markets, which rely on the individual market to provide coverage in certain cases to part-time employees, an alternative to COBRA, and encourage early retirement by offering a bridge to Medicare, as well as avoiding further cost-shifting from health care providers to private plans in response to shortfalls in public payments.

Read the full compliance update…

Artificial Intelligence is Changing How the Hospitality Industry Serves Customers

The advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) in the everyday world of business has evolved significantly in the last few years. Businesses, including the hospitality industry, are using AI to augment customer service teams, gather and analyze information about their customers. The evolution of big data (large sets of data that analyzed computationally) is being used to create in-depth understanding of the customer journey and then apply insights that are gleaned to make adjustments and improvements as needed.

The hospitality industry is well-known to be consumer-centric. In order to stay competitive, hotels, restaurants, resorts, airlines, cruise lines and other segments within the industry must create a valuable customer journey from start to finish. The hospitality industry can benefit greatly from powerful data analytics platforms offered by AI and machine learning. Continue reading…

Trump Administration Releases Guidance on ACA’s Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

On October 6, 2017, The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Treasury, and Labor (the “Departments”) released interim final regulations allowing employers and insurance companies to decline to cover contraceptives under their health plans based on a religious or moral objection. The new rules – which are effective immediately – scale back Obama-era regulations under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that require non-grandfathered group health plans to cover women’s contraceptives with no cost-sharing, with limited exceptions for non-profit religious organizations or closely-held for-profit entities.

The new regulations were released in two parts, one covering employers with moral objections (the “Moral Exemption”), the other for those with religious objections (the “Religious Exemption”). The regulations are scheduled to be published in the October 13, 2017 Federal Register. Within hours of their release, the Departments were sued by the Attorney Generals of California and Massachusetts, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), alleging that the regulations violate the Administrative Procedure Act, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the Equal Protection guarantee implicit in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The lawsuits seek to stop implementation of, and invalidate, the regulations. Other states, including Virginia and Oregon, are exploring legal options to challenge the exemptions.

Read the full update here…

How Will Connected Cars and Autonomous Driving Impact the Future of the Automobile Industry?

While advancement of connected cars will be one of the greatest transformational forces in the automotive industry, the evolution of the connected car also represents one of the greatest unknowns for the industry.

The connected car has the ability to transmit as well as receive data and information from its surroundings, making autonomous driving possible and potentially offers great benefits to drivers, the automotive industry and society as a whole.  The growth of connected vehicles will dramatically improve safety for consumers, lower insurance and warranty costs and reduce traffic congestion. Connected cars will create new opportunities for the automotive industry.

Connected cars, and autonomous driving, will create market uncertainties. How and who will deliver connected cars and services? Will the current auto industry be able to navigate all of the uncertainties ahead or will new players emerge into the scene?

Continue reading…