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Medicaid In A Squeeze

New reports peg Medicaid’s future as dismal and unsustainable, as states struggle for ways to pay for the rising costs of caring for their poorest residents. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions study, “Medicaid Long-Term Care: The Ticking Time Bomb,” estimates Medicaid costs will nearly double as a percentage of state budgets by 2030, or perhaps nearly triple.

Meanwhile, the Urban Institute for the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimates Medicaid expansion will cost $464.7 billion by 2019. The federal government will cover $443.5 billion (95.4 percent) and the states will cover the remaining $21.2 billion. Minnesota won’t expand its Medicaid program until 2014 because of budget fears. Connecticut will. (The Fiscal Times, MedPage Today, Reuters, U.S. House Rep. John B. Larson)

U.S. Senators, meanwhile, are looking to phase out federal subsidies Medicaid as a way of pushing through stalled legislation – the same package that had included the “doc fix.” Speaking of that, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate may soon turn its attention away from that toward other issues. (Wall Street Journal, The Hill, ABC News)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

The “Medical Home” In Ontario: The Poor Left Behind Again

In a recent blog posting, I described Group Health’s medical home for 8,000 patients. It proved to be a boon for primary care physicians, who were able to reduce the size of their patient panels, see fewer patients per day, refer more patients to specialists, and maintain or increase their incomes.

Patients liked it, too. And Group Health was happy because expenditures per patient were 2 percent lower. But poor patients had trouble getting through the front door of the medical home, so based on demographic differences alone, expenditures should have been lower by 10 percent or more. Nonetheless, they declared victory.

Now news filters south from Ontario’s eight-year experiment with medical homes for 8,000,000 patients, and the news is similar. Participation is skewed to healthier and wealthier patients who, in the absence of risk adjustment, yield profitable capitation for primary care physicians. Incomes have soared an average of 25 percent. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*

Does Group Health’s “Medical Home” Leave The Poor Behind?

Group Health has published two papers recently, one in Health Affairs and the other in JAMA, both extolling the virtues of its Medical Home. These follow their brief report last fall in the NEJM and the lengthy description of their model in the American Journal of Managed Care. Their model has been promoted by the Commonwealth Fund, and it is cited in the currrent issue of Lancet.

The big news is that costs were a full 2% lower than conventional care, hardly a great success –- it wasn’t even statistically significant. But was even this small difference due to the Medical Home, or was it because the Medical Home patients were less likely to consume care? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at PHYSICIANS and HEALTH CARE REFORM Commentaries and Controversies*

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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