I joined physicians nationwide last year in cheering when Congress passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Not only did it eliminate the congressional budgetary fiction known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, it also promised to simplify and improve Medicare’s costly and complex programs that purport to measure the quality of care we provide to our patients. Unfortunately, as we review the draft implementing rule, ...

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I’ve had the chance to present the changes being brought by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) to audiences of hundreds of physicians -- at ACP’s Leadership Day on Capitol Hill, ACP’s Board of Governors and Board of Regents meetings, several educational sessions and a news briefing at the College’s Internal Medicine 2016 Scientific Meeting, and to the California Medical Association’s Leadership Academy.  I’ve also had chats with ...

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Naturopaths are currently engaged in an intensive lobbying effort at the Capitol in order to gain recognition as medical practitioners and inclusion in Medicare. As a retired naturopath who was licensed in two states, I want to offer a primer to this political maneuver: Naturopaths are not who they say they are. To be fair, naturopaths (NDs) are no longer obscure practitioners. NDs are currently licensed or registered in 18 U.S. ...

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With all the changes happening in health care and the increasing weight of federal mandates and requirements, it’s easy to view the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as the big, bad enemy. After all, if they just left all physicians and health care institutions on their own, everything would be OK, wouldn’t it? It’s an occasional line of thinking I’ve heard from many esteemed colleagues and also appears to be ...

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CMS states it wants to increase pay to primary care physicians.  And while we might quarrel with their strategies or with the speed of achieving the goal, few would quarrel with the goal itself.  In recent years, CMS has developed HCPCS codes and adopted CPT codes, some limited to primary care and some not specialty restricted but all likely to be reported by primary care practices. Meanwhile, although payment systems ...

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A recent article suggested that the use of observation status for a hospitalized veteran was a dishonor to his years of service to our country because observation was going to subject him to higher out of pocket costs. This post created quite a lot of discussion and debate. While I agree with the author and commenters that observation is confusing to all and that there has to be ...

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A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about my hero patient, a World War II veteran who landed on Normandy beach, and how he had been left in a difficult position by the whole observation versus inpatient situation while he was hospitalized. My intention was to draw attention to these types of scenarios and how they cause intense anxiety and concern to our elderly. It’s a horrible and ...

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The observation versus inpatient distinction is rightly getting more media and public attention with each passing month. In a nutshell, for anyone reading who is not familiar with what this is all about, it’s essentially a way of categorizing people when they get admitted to hospital. You are either deemed an inpatient (basically a more complex case) or an observation (a less serious case). The individual reasons and checkboxes that have ...

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Because hospitals are expensive and often cause harm, there has been a big focus on reducing hospital use.  This focus has been the underpinning for numerous policy interventions, most notable of which is the Affordable Care Act’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), which penalizes hospitals for higher than expected readmission rates.  The motivation behind HRRP is simple:  the readmission rate, the proportion of discharged patients who return to ...

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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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