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Physician Suggests Ways To Fix Medicare Part D

Twenty seven million individuals were enrolled in Medicare Part D as of December 2009. The government spent $51 billion to subsidize Medicare Part D in 2009. The $51 billion spent is in addition to seniors’ premiums and co-pays. The government subsidy was $1,889 per individual subscriber.

Who is making the money?

“A provision in the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), known as the “noninterference” provision, expressly prohibits the Medicare program (the government) from directly negotiating lower prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

This was a gift to the healthcare insurance industry by the government as a result of intense lobbying efforts.

Over 300 private plans (Medicare Plan D sponsors) enter into negotiations with pharmaceutical manufacturers separately to deliver Medicare Part D benefits.

Medicare Part D eligible seniors are forced to deal with Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Repairing the Healthcare System*

Are The Low Prices Of Generic Drugs Enough To Make You Switch?

Generic medications appear to be far more cost-effective than previously reported, concluded a team of Harvard professors. But, physicians and patients aren’t adopting them wholeheartedly.

Patents of 20 drugs with annual sales of more than $1 billion expired or will do so between 2010 and 2013, including Lipitor and Plavix, the highest- and second-highest revenue producing drugs in the U.S. While highly effective generics provide low-cost options for chronic disease management, they are not always factored into cost analyses, and are sometimes viewed with concerns about their safety and efficacy.

The Harvard team revisited a 2008 study that used brand-name medication costs in an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of strategies to prevent adverse outcomes associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The study found that up to 244 million quality-adjusted life-years could be gained over 30 years with appropriate preventive care. But, the study authors wrote, that “most prevention activities are expensive when considering direct medical costs.”

The Harvard team recalculated figures from the 2008 research, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Advice From The EMR Trenches

The latest from moi: “Implementing Electronic Medical Records: Advice from the Trenches” in the March/April 2011 issue of HIT Exchange magazine. An excerpt:

The news released in late December from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that more than half of the nation’s physicians are now using electronic medical records (EMR)—double the adoption rate of just five years ago—is surely worth celebrating. Until, that is, you take a look and realize that just a fourth of office-based physicians have access to a “basic” EMR system including patient history, demographics, problem lists, clinical notes, and computerized physician order entry (CPOE), while just one in 10 has a “fully functional” system, which also includes the communication system required for meaningful use, such as the ability to send tests and prescriptions electronically.

But the floodgates are about to open. In January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began registering physicians and hospitals in 11 states for the EMR incentive program announced in 2009 as part of the federal stimulus package. Registration for California began in February, and the rest of the country should be up and running by the end of the year. Physicians could be eligible for up to $44,000 in bonuses over five years through Medicare and up to $63,750 over six years through Medicaid.

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

Family Physicians: Are They Paid Well Compared To Other Docs?

Here’s an interesting article, talking about stuff that’s not new to anyone who has read my blog for the last three years. The current relative value unit (RVU) system is a scam, perpetuated by a super-secretive group of subspecialists each  inflating their own worth for the benefit of themselves, at the expense of primary care.

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, first read about RVUs explained. Then come back and read this article put out by the National Institute for Health Care Management. It’s titled “Out of Whack: Pricing Distortions in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.“ In his essay, Dr. Robert Berenson shows how distorted primary care specialties are paid, relative to other specialties, in an all Medicare practice with the equivalent input of hours worked. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

Healthcare Spending: Slowest Growth Since The Great Depression

Healthcare spending grew in 2009 at its slowest rate since 1938, according to a report published in Health Affairs.

The last time America saw such a slow growth rate on health spending it was still emerging from the Great Depression and hadn’t yet entered World War II. The most recent recession is also the cause for the health spending figures, according to the annual report, released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The report shows that the recession left a deeper impact than previous ones.

Healthcare spending grew 4 percent to $2.5 trillion, outpacing the rest of the still recovering economy. Authors wrote that the recession contributed to slower growth in private health insurance spending and out-of-pocket spending by consumers, as well as a reduction in capital investments by health care providers. Enrollment in private health insurance fell by 6.3 million people.

That’s still 17.6 percent of the U.S. economy in 2009, which reflects the effects of the recession on the economy and the effects of more Medicaid spending, which rose nearly 22 percent last year as part of the economic stimulus and to cover state deficits. (Health Affairs, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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