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 ...

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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, ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Jeff Goldsmith recently opined on why practice redesign isn’t going to solve the primary care shortage. In the post, Goldsmith explains why a proposed model of high-volume primary care practice — having docs see even more patients per day, and grouping them in pods — is unlikely to be accepted by either tomorrow’s doctors or tomorrow’s boomer patients. He points out that we are replacing a generation of ...

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For all of those out there anticipating the 2014 official roll out of Obamacare, officially known as Affordable Care Act (ACA), here is a cautionary tale. Many years ago, as I was growing my cardiology practice, it became evident that diagnostic services for my specialty, like stress tests and echocardiograms, were done less efficiently and cost more at the local hospital, than in the office. This stimulated many groups in the ...

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Getting rid of Medicare’s SGR formula has been organized medicine’s Holy Grail.  But medicine has gotten no closer to finding a solution to the SGR than the medieval knights did in their search.  This year could be different, though.  The House and Senate both are working on bipartisan plans to repeal the SGR and reform Medicare payments, plans that are being developed with the input of physicians. Yes, you heard that ...

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid recently released its compiled data on what over 3,000 hospitals across the country charge for 100 of the most common discharge diagnostic codes under the diagnosis related group (DRG) system, and boy did the DRG really hit the fan.  Liberals, economists, and band wagoners got all upset about the enormous pricing differentials between hospitals for the same services. For example, Twin Cities Community Hospital in ...

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How the Oregon Medicaid experiment is a failure An important article was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, titled The Oregon Experiment — Effects  of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes. This study provides a rare look at the effects of expanding Medicaid coverage (specifically, Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s version of Medicaid) to a population of previously uninsured patients. Having practiced medicine in Portland, ...

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