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Major Boston Health Care System To Acquire Local HMO

Kingkong.jpg (480×320)Partners Health Care (the dominant provider network in Greater Boston) and Neighborhood Health Plan (a local mostly-Medicaid HMO) just announced that the former intends to acquire the latter, and maintain it as a separate operating entity.  No money will change hands between the parties, but an unspecified amount of money will be given by Partners as grants to community health centers where NHP members receive much of their health care services. Gary Gottlieb, CEO of Partners, graciously allowed that it would not seek to interfere with the current referral patterns of NHP members to the two local safety-net hospitals (which get disproportionate share hospital payments; Partners hospitals do not).

The deal is contingent on several layers of regulatory review, including Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

UnitedHealth Group Releases A Somewhat Inadequate Report On Modernizing Rural Health Care

The UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization released a white paper today on Modernizing Rural Health Care.  To quote from the UHG presser,

  • [The paper] projects an increase of around 5 million newly insured rural residents by 2019 – even as the number of physicians in rural America lags
  • Quality of care is rated lower in rural areas in 7 out of every 10 health care markets; both physicians and consumers in rural areas more likely to rate quality of care lower than those in urban and suburban markets
  • Innovations in care delivery – particularly telemedicine and telehealth – can absorb future strain on rural health care systems

The paper inventories the current state of health care for the 50 million Americans living in a rural setting — and it’s not pretty.  The question, of course, is why does rural health compare unfavorably to urban health metrics, and what can be done to improve matters? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Podcast With Regina Herzlinger: No Single Organization Can Effectively And Efficiently Manage Healthcare For A Population Of Patients

I spoke with Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger this week about health reform – the good, the bad and the ugly – touching on ACOs and demonstration projects under the Affordable Care Act; innovations coming down the pike in the private sector either because of the law or because of market forces; social media in health care; and two key fixes to the ACA that she believes are absolutely necessary in order to make it work, or work as best it can.

First of all, she expressed her delight at the passage of a federal law nudging us ever closer to universal coverage, combined with dismay at its failure to address rising costs (noting that we’re looking at policies yielding an accumulated Medicare deficit of $90 trillion, as compared to an annual GDP of $12-14 trillion) and at the paltry fines to be leveled at noncompliant employers that do not offer health insurance as required. As rational actors, she expects that more and more employers will simply opt out of the health care insurance market one way or another: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

The Massachusetts Experiment Analyzed: Provider Payments Based On Their Negotiating Strength, Not Quality Of Care

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley released her office’s second annual report, An Examination of Health Care Cost Trends and Drivers (PDF; see also press release), which contains a wealth of critical data analysis — and also highlights how little we know about certain things — providing some important context for the discussion of the proposed Part III of Massachusetts health reform, a bill filed by Governor Patrick which would create all-payor ACOs and a system of global payments.

At this late date, few would argue against a move a way from fee-for-service reimbursement for health care, or adding quality metrics to the mix, and tying financial rewards to providers to their performance measured against these metrics.  (Consider the Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield ACQ (alternative quality contract) experience.)  The AG’s report, however, highlights the wide disparities in payments to providers based on negotiating strength, rather than quality or cost of care (as noted in last year’s AG report; check out the 2009 special commission report, too). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Accountable Care Organizations: An Experiment With A Few Good Ideas?

400px-WLA_metmuseum_1495_Unicorn_captivityThere has been a significant outcry against the proposed ACO regs: everything’s wrong and nothing’s right about them, or so some would have us believe.  (The comment period is still open, and CMS is still soliciting input; much of the outcry is a form of posturing and negotiation … not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Today’s “nattering nabobs of negativism” focus on: the estimated price tag for complying with the regulatory requirements (IT and other infrastructure incuded), the slim chance of success by ACOs in righting the wrongs of decades of bloat in the health care system, the premature pledging of allegiance to an idea only partly proven through the PGP demo, the likelihood of failure due to the whole endeavor’s being tied to FFS reimbursement, on the one hand, and due to exposure of ACOs to downside risk, on the other, the unreasonable reliance on dozens and dozens of quality measures . . . and the list goes on.  For further detail, see, e.g., David Dranove’s recent post decrying unproven theories baked into the ACO program (with a link to info on the PGP demo’s results, and differing interpretations of those results; check out the lively discussion in the comments to Dranove’s post on The Health Care Blog), Jeff Goldsmith’s opposition to ACOs as conceived in the ACA (and alternative proposal discussed in the linked post), and Mark Browne’s search for a few good quality measures. (This has been a recurring theme for me as well; I would love to find six or eight meta-measures that predict all others; Mark links to the AHA’s comments on the ACO rule, which are worth a read). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

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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