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Latest Posts

Why Many Disagree With Obama’s Implementation Of ACOs

The sooner President Obama’s Healthcare Reform Act (Obamacare) is repealed the faster we will be able to get on with healthcare reform that will work for all stakeholders. President Obama figured that 30 existing and successful integrated medical care organizations would be in the first group of clinics to join and be included in his Accountable Care Organization (ACO) system of care.

ACOs are a critical part of Obamacare’s goal to provide affordable, universal and quality healthcare. ACOs are really HMO’s on steroids. ACOs are supposed to be better versions of HMO’s.  The public and physicians despised HMO’s because of its control over patient choice and access to care.  President Obama thinks Medicare will save over $500 billion dollars a year with ACOs.  Unfortunately for President Obama, neither the CBO nor the Medicare actuaries believe it.

So far at least 4 of President Obama’s premier integrated healthcare organizations have Read more »

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

Another Look At Geographic Variation In Poverty And Healthcare

MedPAC has released another report in which they have tried to explain variation in healthcare utilization among metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), of which there are approximately 400. MSAs more-or-less correspond to Dartmouth’s 306 hospital referral regions (HRRs), and the conclusions reached by the Dartmouth folks and MedPAC tend to correspond. In commenting about MedPAC’s last report, issued in December 2009, I noted that the major variation was caused by high Medicare expenditures in seven southern states, where patients are poorer and sicker and use much more care.   

In their new report, MedPAC went a step beyond measuring expenditures, which they adjusted for prices and other factors in their last report, to measuring the actual units of service, a far better way to assess the healthcare system. MedPAC’s new findings on the distribution of service use in MSAs are graphed below:

Based on this new approach, MedPAC concluded: “Although service use varies less than spending, the amount of service provided to beneficiaries still varies substantially. Specifically, service use in higher use areas (90th percentile) is 30 percent greater than in lower use areas (10th percentile); the analogous figure for spending is about 55 percent. What policies should be pursued in light of these findings is beyond the scope of this paper, which is meant only to inform policymakers on the nature and extent of regional variation in Medicare service use. However, we do note that at the extremes, there is nearly a two-fold difference between the MSA with the greatest service use and the MSA with the least.” Read more »

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

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*

Geographic Variation & Healthcare Reform

On the heels of the American Hospital Association’s recent demonstration of gross discrepancies in the Dartmouth group’s data, MedPAC released its December 2009 report to Congress showing the same. Confirming data for 2000 (reported in their 2003 report), MedPAC demonstrated much less variation among states and metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) than described by Dartmouth for states or hospital referral regions (HRRs). Closer scrutiny of MedPAC’s data reveals even more. Read more »

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

Legislating to Reduce Readmissions – Safety Net Hospitals Will Be Cut First

According to MedPAC, 18% of hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries resulted in readmission within 30 days, accounting for $15 billion in spending. Since treatable chronic illnesses are responsible for many such hospitalizations, it is assumed that they represent failures of the health care system. MedPAC claims that 84% of readmissions are potentially preventable. However, as will become evident, most readmissions reflect differences in co-morbidities, poverty and other social determinants, all of which deserve attention, including better transition care, but few of which are under the control of hospitals. Nonetheless, health care reform assumes that regulators can accurately adjust for such risks and estimate the “excess.”

Both the House and Senate bills include reductions in payments to hospitals with “excess” readmissions. Payment would be reduced 20% for “excess” readmissions within seven days and 10% within fifteen days. Hospitals with 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rates above the 75th percentile would incur penalties of 10-20%, scaled to the time to readmission. 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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