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The Health Insurance Industry’s Unnecessary Expenses

I have described how the healthcare insurance industry loads its expenses into direct patient care expenses to increase their profits.

The Medical-Loss Ratio calculation is not reported by the traditional media. The healthcare insurance industry spends less healthcare dollars on direct patient care after it is permitted by federal and local agencies to load its expenses into the direct patient care column.

Simply put, the healthcare insurance industry cooks the books to increase its net profit.

Another way to increase profits is to shortchange physicians on medical claims. In fact, 20% of medical claims payments are inaccurate according to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) fourth annual National Health Insurer Report Card. Claims-processing errors by health insurance companies waste billions of dollars and frustrate patients and physicians.

This is one of the reasons the RAND report about physicians controlling waste is so absurd to me. The healthcare insurance industry creates waste in order to increase net profit. Read more »

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

Medical Tourism: A Lot Of Sellers But Not Many Buyers?

I must confess that I have a weakness for medical tourism. Patients have always been ready to go on a pilgrimage to find the world’s leading expert (we call it ‘key opinon leader’ now) hoping to find a cure. As long as traditional leaders in the field of Medicine have been the Germans, the French and the English -with some occasional Austrian and Spanish name in the mix- traffic of wealthy patients across Europe is nothing new.

Since we entered the antibiotics era, these leaders started to be located mainly in the United States, the cradle of modern, technology-driven Medicine. Thus hi-tech centers got ready to welcome foreign patients, building strong International Customer Support departments. A random example -by no means the only one- would be the Mayo Clinic. On their website you can see that their wealthy patients speak Arabic or come from Latin America. These healthcare services have a long tradition of client-oriented work because they work for private clients that pay for their treatment (sometimes the client is not the patient himself but his family). The important thing was never the price, but the patient. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Medico*

Battling With The Insurance Company

A few months back, while we were on vacation in Washington, D.C., my 17-year-old son Noah sustained an injury at 1:00 a.m. I was asleep, but this is usually a few hours earlier than he typically retires. In our hotel room’s bathroom, he dropped a glass and then managed to step in the wrong place. A sharp shard sliced through the soft skin between his great and second toes. Blood was spurting wildly and he woke me up with a shout. He was spooked.

We gastroenterologists are experienced at stanching bleeding, although I was uncertain how to do so without some kind of scope in my hand. I reflected on my ACLS training, which is a comprehensive 2 hour course that my partners and I take every 2 years. In between those sessions, I neither think about nor practice any advanced life saving procedures. It doesn’t seem rational that a community gastroenterologist should be schooled in temporary pacemakers, when most of us haven’t interpreted an EKG in decades.

I still remember the fundamentals of life support, the famed A, B, Cs, standing for airway, breathing and circulation. I decided to apply this to the hemorrhage at hand.

Airway: the windpipe was open and functioning

Breathing: the kid was breathing

Circulation: BINGO!

After going through this brief but critical checklist, I now knew where to focus. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Considering Your Options When The Insurance Company Stops Paying

Blue Cross just advised a twenty-six-year old woman I know that it will cut off payments for the physical therapy that was making it possible for her to sit at a keyboard for eleven hours a day.  Her thirty sessions were up.

The young woman has an overuse injury to both of her arms that causes so much pain she can’t even mix up a salad dressing.  “I am not getting any better,” she said.  “To do that I would have to stop working or scale back the number of hours required by my job.”  Those physical therapy sessions offer strengthening exercises that reduce swelling and inflammation and make it possible for her to keep working.

Shifting Medical Costs to Patients

One cannot entirely fault insurance companies for trying to clamp down on medical costs, but rather than actually lowering the underlying costs of medical services, their solution is to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Physician Suggests Ways To Fix Medicare Part D

Twenty seven million individuals were enrolled in Medicare Part D as of December 2009. The government spent $51 billion to subsidize Medicare Part D in 2009. The $51 billion spent is in addition to seniors’ premiums and co-pays. The government subsidy was $1,889 per individual subscriber.

Who is making the money?

“A provision in the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), known as the “noninterference” provision, expressly prohibits the Medicare program (the government) from directly negotiating lower prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

This was a gift to the healthcare insurance industry by the government as a result of intense lobbying efforts.

Over 300 private plans (Medicare Plan D sponsors) enter into negotiations with pharmaceutical manufacturers separately to deliver Medicare Part D benefits.

Medicare Part D eligible seniors are forced to deal with Read more »

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

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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