The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) sets the rates all physicians get paid and insurance companies base their rates on the same formula. So who creates the formula? Well, it’s the doctors, silly! Or at least some of the doctors. Here’s how it works. A 31-member committee formed by the American Medical Association is made up of representatives from the various specialty societies. This Relative Value Update Committee (RUC) meets ...

Read more...

The main purpose of health reform, said the president at a recent press conference, was to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates. He meant the nub of Obamacare -- the state shopping exchanges with their smorgasbord of insurance policies -- would give coverage to millions of Americans who did not have insurance. Whether that coverage will be affordable or comprehensive for families remains to be seen. What is crystal ...

Read more...

As a primary care doctor I typically see 20-25 patients a day in my private practice. My community is gearing up for changes and is planning measures to integrate the many private practices locally. I was asked to serve on a committee evaluating software solutions to connect the disparate electronic medical records in the community, and had several hours of meetings at the hospital at the beginning of the week. ...

Read more...

With its expansion of Medicaid eligibility, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) was supposed to go a long way towards providing healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. That accomplishment was dealt a large blow by the Supreme Court, when it forbade the federal government from requiring states to expand Medicaid coverage. Nevertheless, many states plan to offer Medicaid to anyone with incomes at or below 138% of the Federal ...

Read more...

From MedPage Today:

  1. ACOs Can Save Medicare $$$, Study Finds. An accountable care organization (ACO) established by a private insurer reduced costs of care for Medicare enrollees.
  2. More Exercise, Metformin Alter Lipid Particles. Both metformin and changes in diet and exercise made significant changes to the size and types of lipid particles in patients with impaired glucose tolerance.
  3. Ultrasound May Cut Thyroid ...

    Read more...

A long time ago, in a bygone era, hospital discharges were simple. As a physician, you decided when to admit and discharge a patient from the hospital. Unfortunately, this process was often inefficient, costly, and subject to the whims of doctor and patient. Medicare, and other third-party payers, ultimately realized that this format made little sense and motivated keeping patients in the hospital too long. Many unethical doctors gamed the ...

Read more...

There are tens of thousands of policies in Medicare’s policy manual, which makes for stiff competition for the “Most Maddening” award. But my vote goes to the policy around “observation status,” which is crazy-making for patients, administrators, and physicians. “Obs status” began life as Medicare’s way of characterizing those patients who needed a little more time after their ED stay to sort out whether they truly needed admission. In many hospitals, ...

Read more...

If there’s anything that liberals hate it’s inequality – unless it’s the Federal tax code – and health care is a prime offender. The liberal mantra is that everyone should have the same access to basic health care. But this doesn’t just involve improving health care access and affordability for millions of uninsured Americans. It also involves limiting or impairing (through taxes) those health care plans liberals have decided are ...

Read more...

Unplanned readmissions to the hospital have been the focus of much attention in recent years for obvious reasons. First, they are relatively easy to measure using administrative claims data. Second, like all inpatient hospitalizations, they cost a lot of money–and are therefore a target for reducing spending. Third, they are a proxy for quality of care, as at least some portion of them are likely avoidable if the hospital does ...

Read more...

Most Republicans hate Obamacare for what they consider to be government over-reach, most Democrats support it because they believe only a strong policy of government intervention can extend coverage to the millions of uninsured—and there are no signs that their ideological battle will abate anytime soon.   But there may be one sweet spot that both parties could agree on: providing consumers (or patients, if you prefer) information on the prices ...

Read more...