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Medicare Advantage Physician Evaluator Jobs: Reality Versus Advertising At CenseoHealth

Physicians looking for part-time jobs to supplement their income may have run across advertisements for “lucrative” Medicare Advantage evaluation opportunities at CenseoHealth. Here’s a typical ad:

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CenseoHealth is the leading Risk Adjustment provider for Medicare Advantage plans – with a network of more than 1,800 credentialed providers conducting over 20,000 member health evaluations a month. Due to our continued growth, we are currently looking to hire in-home physician evaluators to work in these states.

As a CenseoHealth physician, you will meet with Medicare Advantage members in their homes to conduct their annual medical history and physical evaluation.

Additional Information:

  • Conduct evaluations when it’s convenient for you
  • Ongoing physicians can make $3,500 to $4,000 per week
  • Physicians who work 1-3 days per week can make $800 – $2,000
  • Travel and lodging expenses are covered, plus we provide a per diem reimbursement
  • Malpractice insurance is included
  • This position does not require you to prescribe medicine, order lab tests, do blood work, or alter the member’s current treatment regimen

Please contact us, for more information.

Bryan Cooke
Director of Physician Recruiting

P: 972.715.3772

Sounds pretty good, right? Well here’s what they won’t tell you:

1. Low Hourly Pay. Compensation is $100 per completed evaluation – but you have to drive to each member’s house (sometimes an hour each way) to complete a 31 page history and physical exam. Members are often medically complex, cognitively impaired, and/or non-English speaking. In the end (after counting travel time, cancellations, scheduling snafus, and long hours completing paperwork and FedEx shipping) the hourly wage works out to be about $30.

2. Poor Logistics. Members are scheduled back-to-back without regard to distance between their locations. That means you are chronically late, and some members cancel their meeting with you. No-show and cancellation rates (in my experience) are about 20%. You are not compensated for any of the time associated with driving to their location, talking to them on the phone, or otherwise trying to locate them when they are not home upon your arrival. Once a member cancels, you cannot fill their slot with someone else on the same day.

3. Threat of harm. Members mostly come from low to middle class income levels. Some of them live in truly horrific living situations (no electricity, a home overrun with cockroaches, no food or running water), and others are psychologically unstable. As a female physician driving alone into a very rural area to conduct a physical exam on a male patient who is actively psychotic… this can be dangerous. You never know what or who you will face. I have had to call social services on numerous occasions and have narrowly escaped inappropriate sexual advances.

4. Limited Support. There is no guarantee that anyone from the parent company will be available via phone when you call during an emergency. I have called on several occasions during critical situations where I had to leave a voice message and was assured that “my call was very important” and someone from provider services “would get back to me within 1/2 a business day.”

5. Questionable ethics. Schedulers do not explain to the members why you are coming to their home to evaluate them. Because the schedulers seem to work on commission, they often use questionable tactics to get the members to agree to the evaluation – such as telling them that the meeting is “mandatory” and will “take 20 minutes” or is “just a wellness visit.” For this reason, many members receive you with suspicion, wondering if you’re there to try to “throw them off the Medicare plan” or are angry that they were mandated to meet with you. Lengthy conversations and apologies to set the stage for your evaluation are commonplace.

6. Payment denials and exaggerated pay potential. Evaluations must be completed meticulously or the quality assurrance reviewers will reject your forms and you will not be compensated for your work (if you, for example, forget to check a box or use a non-approved abbreviation). Although the advertisements state that some physicians complete 35-45 evaluations per week, that is nearly impossible in areas where clients are not clustered together tightly. It is an extremely misleading statement, in my experience. Apparently online reviewers agree.

7. Glitchy and costly technology. In order to save on costs, electronic evaluations can be completed via an iPad rather than paper forms. Unfortunately, the software often crashes, resulting in a return to paper in the middle of an evaluation. This ends up increasing the amount of time required to complete evaluations as your evenings are spent copying paper records into the iPad program. In addition, you are required to purchase your own stylus for data entry, as well as all the equipment required during your physical exam (e.g. blood pressure cuff, bathroom scale, ophthalmoscope, stethoscope, and more).

8. Low-budget travel and accommodations. While the agency boasts that they will pay for your accommodations and rental car, that typically translates into a room at a low-budget hotel and a Toyota Yaris with roll-down windows and no GPS.

9. The truth is hidden. The real reason for the evaluations is to help health insurers obtain larger reimbursements from the government. A physician (or NP) is required to verify all of the patient’s current medical conditions to justify their “risk score.” Medicare Advantage plans get paid more to manage patients with higher risk scores, so they are very motivated to document the complete list of diseases and conditions per at-risk senior. Patients may benefit from having an objective third party review their health record, but this is not the main goal. Also, it is unclear if the higher risk scores ultimately translate to more benefits and services for the patients.

10. Treated like a number. Sadly, my experience with my recruiter (the person who matches your availability with evaluation needs in various states where you hold a medical license) has been underwhelming. I took the time to make suggestions about how to improve the process for evaluators, but my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Not only were my phone calls and emails not returned, but when I suggested that it didn’t make sense for me to continue seeing members when I had a 66% no-show rate he simply replied, “I took you off the schedule – we have an abundance of FL doctors so it is not an issue.”

Take a look at the lovely marketing promotional images for the job:

And this video of what it’s like to do a home evaluation:

Now take a look at some photos that I took while on assignment (note: these are not actual patient homes, but are very similar to ones I encountered):

Taking a job as a Medicare Advantage evaluator was a real eye-opener. Poverty and chronic illness in America takes on a whole new light when you experience patients’ actual home environments. It’s like being a medical missionary in your own country. I’ve met patients who hadn’t seen a physician in decades, diagnosed life-threatening illnesses, and made sure that care (or case management) was initiated for countless people living on the fringes of society.

I’m glad for the experience – but think that my peers considering similar work should be told the truth about what they will be doing. Being a Medicare Advantage evaluator is not like the shiny “care anywhere” ad suggests – and “lucrative” is not exactly the right adjective for $30/hour for an MD’s time. But if you don’t mind being treated poorly by your employer, investing a lot of your own money in equipment costs, and putting your life at risk in dangerous home environments – you may actually do some good for the forgotten, frail elderly of this nation, (while helping middle men like Censeo Health to profit from health insurance behemoths, alas). Now you know the truth behind the advertising and can make an informed decision about whether or not you’d like to sign up for this work.

Any takers?

State Of Healthcare In The Union

Short and sweet. That’s how President Obama addressed healthcare reform in his State of the Union address [Tuesday] night. In less than 700 words, he outlined how he’d improve but not retreat on what’s been enacted into law.

He’s willing to work on changes, he said, naming malpractice reform and reducing onerous paperwork burdens for small businesses. But, he cautioned, “What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”

President Obama had invited two real people to his address to highlight the law’s successes. One is a brain cancer survivor who can access health insurance through high-risk pools created by the law. The other is a small business owner who lowered health insurance costs by $10,000 for his nine employees, a probable jab at the “job-killing” title of an attempted yet futile repeal vote last week.

The President’s remarks come at a time when the public is of two minds on healthcare reform. While many state they don’t like the entire package, they also love individual aspects of it. The individual mandate remains widely unpopular, but allowing those with pre-existing conditions to access insurance is widely popular, as does Medicare and Social Security.

The Republican response by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Chairman of the House Budget Committee, responded that, “The President mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree — and we think his healthcare law would be a great place to start.” The House has voted for a repeal and Senate Republicans are preparing legislation and promising to ask for a vote. (Los Angeles Times, Politico, Kaiser Health News, Greenville [South Carolina] Online)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Workers Compensation: A Model For The Future Of American Healthcare?

There’s a country with an unusual healthcare system. In it, you often spend about as much time with your lawyer as you do your doctor. There are special courts set up to decide what kinds of treatment you are allowed to have. And doctors have to be careful that they don’t say or do the wrong thing, or else they risk being blackballed by insurance companies.

The country:  The United States of America.

You may not realize it, but if you hurt your back at work you end up in a different healthcare system than if you hurt your back at home. Sure, you may end up with similar doctors or hospitals, but your experience of healthcare will be completely different. Here’s why.

If you get hurt at work, you’re covered by the “workers compensation” system. That system has its roots over a century ago, when employers didn’t do much to take care of workers. So the system is based on laws that mandate employers to take care of injured workers, often for the rest of their lives. In exchange for this very comprehensive coverage, employers and their insurers get a great deal of control over what care workers get and where they get it.

Does the workers compensation system represent a model of how a future American healthcare system might work? It might. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

The Rationing Of Healthcare

Do you recall the severe rationing of food and water the Chilean miners had to endure to survive? The rationing was done to stretch their limited resources. I would argue the state of Arizona’s new policy to not cover organ transplants for patients on Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) or their version of Medicaid is a similar form of rationing.

AHCCCS, as many Medicaid programs, is underfunded. They are trying to operate on a limited budget. Something has to give. Sadly in this case, many (NPR reports 98) had already been granted approval for organ transplants which they may not receive.

Francisco Felix, 32, who due to hepatitis-C needs a liver transplant, is reported to have made it to the operating room, prepped and ready for his life-saving liver transplant when doctors told him the state’s Medicaid plan wouldn’t cover the procedure. The liver he was to receive went to someone else. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Un-Insurance Reform

Who doesn’t need insurance reform? Why, the insurers like Aetna, Cigna, and BCS Insurance, that’s who! From Emergency Physicians Monthly:

By threatening to raise health care premiums by 200 percent or threatening to drop coverage altogether, the companies got the Department of Health and Human Services to cave. Now the companies have our government’s blessing to continue offering “insurance” to their employees that is capped at a few thousand dollars per year instead of the $750,000 required in the health care law.

Perhaps GruntDoc said it best:

“I am not an Obamacare fan, and would like it repealed, with smaller, more focused Bipartisan fixes, but if the government is going to pass something then roll over this easily to special interests… it’s already worse than useless.”

-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

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