Beacon Health Options has a new leader at its helm, and he’s brought a lofty set of goals with him.
The managed behavioral health care organization tapped Glenn MacFarlane to step into the president position in June. A managed care alum, he comes to the job from Aetna and takes over for Susan Coakley, who has been serving as interim president since May 2020.
Headquartered in Boston, Beacon works with employers, health plans and government agencies to provide mental health services and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment to more than 40 million customers across all 50 states. Before being purchased by Anthem (NYSE: ANTM) last year, the company was the largest independent behavioral health organization in the nation.
In his new position, MacFarlane said he’s focused on finalizing Beacon’s integration with Anthem, expanding its relationship with big name partners such as Walmart and linking “all [the company’s] spend … to some sort of value-based arrangement.”
Behavioral Health Business recently connected with MacFarlane to discuss all that and more. You can find the conversation below, edited for length and clarity.
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BHB: Congrats on the new position! First of all, can you tell me a little bit about your background and what brought you to Beacon?
MacFarlane: I have been in health care for 30-plus years.
My most recent job was at Aetna. I was the Northeast territory leader for Aetna Medicaid, and I had markets from Georgia up to New England under my oversight. In addition, I was the market plan president for the state of New Jersey.
I started my health care career back in the late 80s, early 90s auditing health care companies for what’s now called PricewaterhouseCoopers.
And what attracted you to Beacon specifically?
Before I came to Aetna, I was working at a company in New York City called Affinity Health Plan. I was the president and CEO there for around five years, and Affinity outsourced its behavioral health capabilities to Beacon.
The Beacon team was embedded into my health plan. They showed up every day and worked side-by-side with my Affinity Health Plan employees, and the service was amazing.
Fast forward and COVID made behavioral health so much more mainstream, and it just multiplied the issues that people are having.
When the Beacon opportunity came to my attention around the end of the first quarter of this year — having been at Aetna five years and seeing important behavioral health is to basically everyone — I decided to make a career change.
I’m so glad that I did, and I’ve been here since June 28 of this year.
You’re not the only new hire at Beacon: The leadership team overall seems to be in transition. What’s the thought process behind the new leadership hires, and can we expect to see more additions into the near future?
There have been some new additions. The most recent is our Chief Medical Officer Neil Leibowitz, who comes to Beacon directly from Talkspace.
There will be a few more additions, but for the most part, the core team is in place. I don’t see major changes other than maybe one or two more openings I have to fill.
As you solidify that core team and settle into your new role, what are your main goals and priorities?
My number one priority is to complete the integration of Anthem and Beacon. Anthem closed on the Beacon transaction in March 2020, and then the whole world changed.
The reality is COVID has had a huge impact on the integration activities. We’re in a great place, but we’re not done yet.
In our business, you have to get regulatory approval from each state that Anthem and Beacon are in to have Anthem delegate its behavioral health capabilities to Beacon. That process really did not happen as fast as we would like because the regulators had other things to do.
But things are starting to pick up, and I fully expect to have the integration completed by the end of June of 2022. I’d like to have it done sooner, but it all depends on the regulatory approvals. We have a few big states that we’re waiting on, then we move into the people and then we move into the network.
What will completing that integration mean for you guys?
The number one huge benefit is going to be improved access for Anthem and Beacon.
Anthem is Beacon’s largest customer, but Beacon has 275 other customers. Where Beacon has a lot of concentrated business, Anthem doesn’t, and where Anthem has a lot of concentrated business around the country, Beacon doesn’t. So when you’ve merged these two incredibly vast networks together, it’s just going to mean such greater access for our customers and members.
In addition to merging the networks, we’re expanding our telehealth capabilities and our chat capabilities. We’re in talks right now with national telehealth providers to help with that.
The press release announcing your hire also mentioned you were interested in building on Beacon’s existing partnerships and collaborations. One of the most interesting to me is Beacon’s partnership with Walmart. Can you provide some color on how that’s going?
That was an exciting one for me to inherit. It’s a joint venture between Beacon and Walmart Health, and it began in September of 2019.
Right now, we have 15 locations where Beacon staffs the Walmart Health sites, and we are looking to expand and implement more as Walmart decides where they want to go around the country.
I do expect that number to be greater if we’re having this conversation a year from now.
Are you working on any other interesting collaborations or partnership expansions you’d like to highlight?
One of the things that I’ve been spending a great deal of time on since I joined the organization is Military OneSource. It’s a partnership we have with the Department of Defense and the military, where we do the assistance for all 5.4 million active military men and women, their families and anyone who’s left the military for up to a year.
It’s been really rewarding for me to get to know that side of our business. It’s an amazing benefit for the men and women in the armed forces, and I’m going to make sure every day that benefit gets improved upon.
Another priority of yours mentioned in the press release was finding new “flexible approaches and methods to connect members to care.” What does that look like?
Obviously, telehealth has exploded since the pandemic. Year-over-year, our outpatient telehealth has increased almost 40% from the same time in the beginning of 2020. In addition to that, we’re expanding our telehealth capabilities, though we still don’t have nearly as much as I would like.
Chat technology is also becoming really important. If somebody has an issue, rather than having to make a telehealth visit, they can chat with someone to get something clarified or make an appointment. So that’s something that we’re pursuing.
I also want to talk about value-based care. That’s something executives at Beacon and Anthem have highlighted in the past, saying they want to have a much higher concentration of value-based contracts in the future? And how much value-based care are you guys doing right now and what’s that going to look like in the future?
We have a lot of value-based contracts in place with our various behavioral health providers. I’m not going to say an exact number, but I would like within the next three-plus years to have all our spend linked to some sort of value-based arrangement. That’s the goal that I’ve set with my team, and I definitely believe it’s achievable.
The key thing here is that providers want it too, so it should be just about the right execution in getting it done.