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Latest Posts

Physician Offers Potential Explanations For The Sustainable Growth Rate “Hole”

This article and its graph (from the NEJM), and its interesting, informative but probably useless graph, was referenced today on twitter, via the Washington Post’s Wonkblog,

Recently, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services announced a scheduled cut in Medicare physician fees of 27.4% for 2012. This cut stems from the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula used by the physician-payment system. …
To illustrate the level of inequity in this system, we broke down the national spending for Medicare physician services by state and by specialty and determined which states and specialties have contributed most to the SGR deficit between 2002, when the program was last balanced, and 2009. Although SGR spending targets are set on a national level, we computed state targets by applying the SGR’s national target growth rate to each state’s per capita expenditure, using 2002 as the base year. Our analysis is an approximation, because, unlike the SGR, we do not adjust for differential fee changes. …

We compared the state targets for the years 2003 to 2009 to actual state expenditures and added the annual difference between these figures to get a cumulative difference between the state’s spending and the SGR target. This cumulative difference was Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Medical Malpractice Reform: Would Doctors Accept The Deal?

The bipartisan debt commission appointed by President Obama recently released its recommendations on how to pare the country’s debt.

Of interest to doctors is the suggestion to change the way doctors are paid. Physician lobbies have been advocating for removal of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula — the flawed method by which Medicare, and subsequently private insurers, pays doctors. According to this method, physicians are due for a pay cut of more than 20 percent next month.

According to the commission:

The plan proposes eliminating the SGR in 2015 and replacing it with a “modest reduction” for physicians and other providers. The plan doesn’t elaborate on what constitutes a “modest reduction” in Medicare reimbursement.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should establish a new payment system — one that rewards doctors for quality, and includes accountable care organizations and bundling payments by episodes of care, the report said.

The commission also said in order to pay for the SGR reform, medical malpractice lawyers should be paid less, there should be a cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, and that comprehensive tort reform should be adopted.

There’s little question that associating physician reimbursements with the number of tests and treatments ordered is a major driver of health costs. Removing that incentive, and better valuing the time doctors spend with patients, is a positive step in the right direction. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

How Will The Medicare Cut Affect You?

Once again, Congress is playing with fire by not enacting a permanent solution to the Medicare SGR (sustainable growth rate) physician payment cut problem.

Congress got itself tied up in knots trying to figure out a way to reverse a 21% cut in Medicare payments to doctors that went into effect yesterday. It ended up agreeing to legislation, which was signed into law late Thursday evening by President Obama, to restore payments to the pre-cut (2009) levels through the end of May.

The action, though, may have come a dollar short and day late. CMS has indicated that it had no choice but to tell carriers to begin processing claims with the 21% cut, starting yesterday. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

Corporate Executives Astonished By Average Physician’s Income

By Stanley Feld MD, FACP, MACE

Physicians in practice work hard and have little time for political and legal trickery. They assume their leadership will look out for their interests while they take care of patients.

The problem is that physicians do not have effective leadership, explaining the difficulties practicing physicians have every day with the healthcare insurance industry, hospital administrators, the government and the threat of liability. Most physicians are caring professionals who are not looking to rip off anyone. Physicians do expect reasonable compensation commensurate with their training, level of expertise and level of responsibility.

I recently presented a physician income survey to a group of corporate executives. The executives were astonished by the level of physician income relative to their level of responsibility.

The unanimous reaction of these corporate executives was the average physician’s income was that of a low mid-level manager. It is true some practice specialties earn more but the average income of practicing physicians is not commensurate with their knowledge and responsibility. Read more »

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

Why Healthcare Reform Is Good For Medicare

You may have noticed, uncharacteristically for me, that I haven’t posted a blog in week. I thought it would be better to allow the readers to post their own reflections, and you did — with comments ranging for unabashed pride to skepticism to disdain for the law and the American College of Physician’s (ACP’s) role in bringing in about.

I respect the principled arguments made by those who believe that the legislation gives the government too much control or those who fear that it will add to the deficit and public debt, even though the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says otherwise. But there is one claim made by some of the critics that sticks in my craw, which is that the legislation will result in “massive cuts” to Medicare. Here are the facts. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The ACP Advocate Blog by Bob Doherty*

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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