Health care in America is fracturing right down the middle, and doctors are going to have to figure out if or how long they can straddle the divide between what patients want and what the government and corporate America want them to have. Up until this point, the momentum has been with the payers, Medicare, and the insurance industry. But the more heavy-handed they become, the more inevitable the public backlash ...

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All of us who care for the poor, the illiterate, the poorly educated, the immigrant, the frail, and the abused know this: caring for them involves many challenges that aren’t picked up by Medicare computers or big data. Simplistic calculations about quality metrics such as hospital readmission rates have been way off the mark at capturing the complexities of caring for these patients. A recent study from researchers in Boston ...

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Dear patients, This is a hard letter to write, but it is important that you know about a major change that is coming for both of us in 2017, just a short year away. As you recall, last year I left a large hospital group practice and opened my own office, and I want to thank you for your faithfulness in following me to my new location.  With the newfound freedom of ...

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Transparency in medicine is a good thing When the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) publically disclosed the 2012 CMS reimbursements to physicians, the response was immediately felt throughout the medical community.  As a practicing physician, we were warned of this day.  Can’t say we prepared for it, but we sure did brace for it. And sure enough, on April 9, 2014, the New York Times published on their website a ...

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A long, long time ago, hospitals existed to admit patients when they were sick, treat them with medicines or surgery and good nursing care, and discharge them after they became well. Hospital care was at one time a charity, which evolved into a nonprofit service, before it became a very big business. In olden days, nonprofit hospitals charged patients straightforward fees for their services. Then, when you were just a young whippersnapper ...

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If she had been eligible for Medicare, the hospital would have charged the government $10,000 for the services it provided to her, with Medicare picking up most of the tab. But lacking insurance, she was billed directly from the hospital, and not for a mere $10,000. The total charge: $120,000! That 1,200 percent markup is extreme. But out of the 50 U.S. hospitals with the largest price markups, 49 are for-profit ...

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Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that causes opportunistic infection in helpless people. It may have met its match. The cost of treating toxoplasmosis, a rare but extant infection, just shot up exponentially. Drug-resistant strain, you ask? Have physicians in infectious disease gone mercenary, you wonder? No. A change in ownership. Daraprim (pyrimethamine) is a nifty drug that kills parasites. It’s been around for eons. I still recall its name from my ...

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A recent CMS proposal to bundle payments for doctors and hospitals for hip and knee replacements in 800 model centers has hit a roadblock. The five-year program would have begun January 1, 2016, and nearly 300 comments were received by CMS earlier this month. Apparently most of the comments were not, shall we say, favorable. Even the Federation of American Hospitals protested For those who are unaware, "bundled payments" means that ...

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I was recently discussing all the changes going on in healthcare at a summer cookout with a few doctors in private practice.  The topic of accountable care organizations (ACOs) came up, and the group started debating the pros and cons of them.  At one point in the conversation, I brought up Medicare’s Innovation Center (the organization leading efforts like ACOs) and asked the group what they thought of it. No ...

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shutterstock_207314821 Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed Medicare (and Medicaid) into law.   Medicare’s relationship with physicians since then can best be described as a complicated one. First, recall that Medicare became law notwithstanding the American Medical Association’s fierce opposition to it. Three years prior to its enactment, AMA President Ed Annis warned that, "We doctors fear that the American public ...

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