Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, CPT billing, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, medical inflation, out-of-pocket costs, Policy Issues, Uncategorized

The Sorry State of Healthcare Financing: “But I Didn’t Get the Memo!”

Memo.LumbergYou pull into a Gas Station and discover that there are no prices listed on the pump, just a slot to insert your auto insurance card…only to find out your State Farm policy is not part of the gas station’s network! You just want to fill up and you are willing to pay cash, so you ask the attendant how much it is per gallon.

The response: “We can’t be sure until we know what your out-of-network benefits are… so you’ll need to pay a $200 deposit until the claim cycles through. If the gasoline is less than $200 you’ll get a refund; if more, then you’ll get an additional bill.”

Or you sit down at a Restaurant, open the menu to discover there are NO prices listed…Not only that, but you have to agree to eat the food and pay whatever price your insurance company says you owe!!!

This, my friends, is the sorry state of healthcare economics and a big reason why Healthcare is so expensive…because it isn’t the cost of care that is the problem; it’s the price we are being charged for the privilege of using our insurance!!!

Posted in advance-pricing, CPT billing, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Influence peddling, Leadership, Medical Costs, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

U.S. “Non-Profit” Hospitals and CEOs Raking in Big Bucks | Intellectual Takeout

We found that the assets, investments, and bank accounts at these charitable hospitals increased by $38.9 billion last year – from $164.1 billion to $203.2 billion. That’s 23.6 percent growth, year-over-year, in net assets. Even deducting for the $5.2 billion in charitable gifts received from donors, these hospitals still registered an extraordinary 20.5 percent return on investment (ROI).

Additionally, these 82 hospitals spent $26.4 million on lobbying to defend the status quo. Because government money and charitable donations can’t be spent directly on lobbying, these hospitals used the payments from patients to lobby government to preserve their market position.

Perhaps these hospitals don’t want you to see how much things cost, because they don’t want you to know how much they are making.

It’s time to embrace the transparency revolution and open the books on the real prices paid by patients for healthcare services.

https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/article/us-non-profit-hospitals-and-ceos-raking-big-bucks

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, CPT billing, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medical Practice Models, Policy Issues, Uncategorized

Wheel of Misfortune: The Fix

downloadHealthcare Transparency initiatives like the Alexander-Murray bill are getting a tremendous amount of press lately; deservedly so. But are these measures a fix or a baidaid?

Keep in mind, out-of-network “surprise” bills would not exist if not for the market surrogate (poor surrogate that it is) that we call PPO networks, which serve to suppress competition by obscuring prices & quality.

So, it is not a stretch to say that surprise bills occur by design. The way we’ve chosen to finance medical care allows prices to hide among the placeholders in the billing cycle because doctors have become defacto billing agents for the carrier networks and their anti-competitive, contractually-mandated CPT billing protocols. And the rights to those codes are owned by the AMA and the RVU dollar conversion factor is determined by CMS which guarantees upward trajectory of billed charges which make the process impervious to price competition.

This whole problem evaporates when providers remove themselves from the contract and replace these unholy inflationary-prone agreements with real prices and/or transparent service agreements.

Fix the problem: Keep the contract between the subscriber and the insurer.

Posted in advance-pricing, CPT billing, Economic Issues, Employee Benefits, Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medicare, Network Discounts, Price Tansparency, Re-Pricing Scams, Uncategorized

The Urban Myth of PPOs | LinkedIn

“Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) A type of health plan that contracts with medical providers, such as hospitals and doctors, to create a network of participating providers. You pay less if you use providers that belong to the plan’s network.”

Oh really. The BUCA (Blue Cross, United, Cigna, Aetna) payers reimburse out of network hospitals at about 125% of Medicare while clearly reimbursing In-Network hospitals closer to 300% of Medicare on average. Most hospitals now have cash-pay initiatives at a rate of about 135% of Medicare, and Reference Based Reimbursement pays at average levels just above 150% of Medicare.

So, if you desire to pay more for healthcare services, the PPO model is your best option. The PPOs will charge you an access fee of $12 to $20 to have that option too. One last thing, since employers sign the inane PPO agreements they are legally bound to pay the excessive provider fees by contract.  No wonder your healthcare expenses are so high.

Source: The Urban Myth of PPOs | LinkedIn

Posted in Access to healthcare, Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), CPT billing, Economic Issues, Essential Benefits under the ACA, Government Regulations, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medicare, out-of-pocket costs, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, third-party payments, Uncategorized

Medicare Turns Health-Care Prices Into a Guessing Game – WSJ

https://www.wsj.com/articles/medicare-turns-health-care-prices-into-a-guessing-game-11558282907

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Consumer-Driven Health Care, CPT billing, Deductibles, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Network Discounts, Patient Choice, Patient-centered Care, Quality, Uncategorized

Healthcare costs…time to rethink the calculus!

For anyone still laboring under the myth that insurance carriers are motivated to hold down costs in healthcare OR that health insurance is expensive BECAUSE health-care is expensive OR that insurance helps PROTECT us from high billed charges, consider the following facts and figures presented in this common Gynecologic surgery example.

Let’s compare a not-for-profit hospital-owned facility that has in-network insurance agreements with that of a physician-owned private facility that does NOT have any insurance contracts for payment such as Surgery Center of Oklahoma.

A broker consulted me on cost-containment strategies on behalf of a client/patient who needed a hysterectomy (CPT codes provided).  She has a high deductible indemnity plan and a faith-based health share plan. The surgeon’s (Gyn physician) fee was $7,000.  The hospital facility charge for O/R suite was estimated at $30,000 and they required $15,000 payment upfront.

Based on analysis of claims payment, it would be reasonable to assume the reimbursement would be around 60% of billed charges (+/- 10%).  So the final payout could easily be between $18K – 26K. That total does NOT include anesthesia and may not include surgeon’s fee. What a fantastic discount! In some markets, we see hysterectomy reimbursement as high as $54K.

The all-inclusive fee at SCO is $8,000 and includes an over-night stay if needed.  That price includes everything needed to perform the surgery, including professional fees.

2019-04-29 (1)

All of the effort, time and resources at SCO go to medical care; not buying practices or employing physicians or 7 figure CEO salaries! And no fake discounts designed to foster dependence on the same products that keeps prices higher than they need to be.

That is how you reduce the cost of healthcare!

 

Posted in Access to healthcare, Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), CPT billing, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Employee Benefits, Free-Market, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Individual Market, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Self-Insured Companies, Self-Insured Plans, Third-Party Free Practices, Uncategorized

DPC and Self-Insured Employers: Counting the Costs

“In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause—it is seen. The others unfold in succession—they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference—the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse.” Frederic Bastiat

The results of the immediate/ intended effects (the seen) and the subsequent/ unintended effects (the unseen) of U.S. healthcare policy are clearly instantiated by examining the way we use, and misuse, health insurance. Despite the ostensibly good intentions to improve access by expanding coverage for various medical services, the “ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse.”

Our insurance-based third-party payer protocols have pernicious and nefarious economic consequences on our healthcare system. This manifests as rampant healthcare inflation catalyzed by the macroeconomic market distortions of the 3rd party payer effect and perpetuated by the microeconomic price-obscuring distortions of the billing cycle.

Stated differently, we have taken the concept of insurance, designed to pay out rare higher-priced claims on unpredictable events, and turned it into a product whose design promotes an incentive for everyone to use it as often as possible.

Insurance is sustainable only when the financial risks of individually rare events are spread over a large population. When it also becomes a funding source for anticipated and affordable events, combined with a perverse incentive to utilize it to the margin, the result is the creation of a perpetual payout fund. The costs of sustaining this model are never satisfied, being squeezed by patients who are chasing the benefits and providers who chase the billing codes for reimbursement.

As evidence for the negative consequence of misusing insurance as a pass-through system for virtually every healthcare expense (accelerated by passage of the ACA), we can examine the employer-sponsored group market premiums. From 2007 – 2017 the average premium for family coverage increased by 55% and employee contribution rate as a share of premium cost increased by 74% over the same 10-year period; while median household income went up by only 3%.

To add financial injury to insult, the percentage of employees with an out-of-pocket maximum of greater than $3,000 doubled, going from 30% to 60% of employees.
From kfforg.

“Eighty-one percent of covered workers have a general annual deductible for single coverage that must be met before most services are paid for by the plan. Among covered workers with a general annual deductible, the average deductible amount for single coverage is $1,505…”

The average deductible for covered workers is higher in small firms than in large firms ($2,120 vs. $1,276) …

Over the last five years, however, the percentage of covered workers with a general annual deductible of $1,000 or more for single coverage has grown substantially, increasing from 34% in 2012 to 51% in 2017.

Thirty-seven percent of covered workers in small firms are in a plan with a deductible of at least $2,000, compared to 15% for covered workers in large firms.

In the ACA individual market insurance exchanges, single coverage premiums (unsubsidized) increased by 62% and family coverage premiums increased by 75% just since implementation of ObamaCare!

Our third-party payer system has created a dependency paradox; the same funding method that contributes to runaway costs also causes us to be more dependent on it for access. This guarantees that Healthcare will cost significantly more than the sum of its individual parts, and will continue to escalate faster than our ability to pay for it.

Even if American doctors took a 50% pay cut and we could eliminate the spend equal to all care during last 12 months of life (retrospective knowledge of course), we would still spend more per capita on healthcare than any other country. All components of healthcare spending add to cost of care. But the overwhelming cost drivers for the U.S. healthcare system are embedded so deeply within the way we access and pay for medical services that we often overlook them, choosing instead to blame the symptoms for the disease rather than the disease for the symptoms.

Self-insured employer health plans are in a unique position to break out of this dependency paradox. As discussed in part 2 of this series, by contracting with a Direct Primary Care practice and re-routing subsequent encounters away from the more expensive insurance-based protocols, Self-insured employers can utilize creative plan designs to cut costs and improve employee satisfaction.

Considering that approximately 65% of 160 million employees who have insurance in the workplace are covered under a self-funded plan, representing over 100 million lives, the aggregate savings can be substantial even after accounting for membership costs.

Let’s compare traditional insurance-based coverage for primary care vs a self-funded model with DPC at the hub and count the costs.
In broad context, the large volume of data from the Qliance experience, and supported by other self-insured employer’s experiences, efficient primary care via the DPC model reduces unnecessary downstream care by approximately 50%, with the resultant cost savings. The caveat being, as we double the number of primary care visits combined with longer visits to adequately address problems, the need for emergent visits, ER visits and specialty intervention drop significantly.

Consider that between 2002 and 2016, medical costs for a family of four in an employer-sponsored PPO plan increased 180%, with the percentage of employees facing out-of-pocket maximums of $3,000 or more have doubled! Given that household income has barely budged in real dollars since 2002, these increases are clearly not sustainable. By contrast, the auto insurance market (a real indemnity product) increased by only 17% from 2007 – 2016, while deductible offering ranges remained stable, averaging $500.

The introduction of DPC has deflated these cost escalations considerably.

In the individual market, data from several sources bears this out. CovenantMD, a Direct Primary Care practice in Lancaster, PA illustrates the potential savings based on a typical family’s utilization.

They compared the total costs incurred using a Bronze ACA plan with $6K individual/$12K family deductibles without and with a DPC membership at CovenantMD. Pairing a Bronze Plan with a DPC membership at CovenantMD resulted in an out-of-pocket savings of $7,267, even after the cost of the membership was counted. That is a 65% reduction in out-of-pocket costs!

Zenith Direct Care did a similar analysis for a typical family of five with an 80/20 plan with $3,000 deductible. They compared annual costs for this scenario with a Zenith Direct Care membership plus a Health Cost-share Plan (health-sharing member). Estimated out-of-pocket costs with the traditional insurance alone was $18,343 compared to $6,160 with the Zenith/HCS combination. A savings of 66%!

Next, let’s explore the advantages of utilizing DPC in a self-funded plan in place of insurance-based primary care by looking at lab and pharmaceuticals prices.

Core Family Practice, a DPC practice in Kennett Square, PA, compared a 90-day supply of four common primary care medications purchased through Aetna’s Mail-order supplier with the prices their members pay for same quantity. The annual cost for the Aetna mail-order came to $2,248.68 compared to only $850.80 for the same medications from Core’s generic supplier, which were dispensed in the office. That $1,397.88 savings equates to a 61% reduction in out-of-pocket costs for the married couple! They also looked at the costs of obtaining three sets of commonly ordered lab tests for the same couple. Out-of-pocket costs using their high-deductible plan (QHDHP) was $480 in lab test responsibility. The same tests drawn and paid at time of services to Core FP totaled $63.17 yielding an incredible 87% reduction.

A similar level of savings for direct-pay lab tests was noted in data published in 2014 by CMT journal comparing lab fees charged to a Direct Pay practice by the lab vs. the CPT billed charges by the lab (assuming patient had no coverage or had not met their deductible). For five common blood tests the savings was 89% by not using insurance, with lab billed charges of approximately $782 compared to a direct pay cost of $80. Plum Health, a direct primary care practice in Detroit, shows similarly impressive lab test savings of 87% on six common blood tests; $811 vs $106.

The evidence is overwhelming. With DPC at the hub of the benefits package, combined with proper utilization of insurance, Self-insured employers and employees are enjoying undeniable and significant cost savings.

Using DPC as a free-market-friendly alternative to traditional insurance-accessed primary care not only saves employers directly on coverage costs, but the model has a huge impact in reducing patients’ out-of-pocket costs incurred from laboratory tests, pharmaceuticals and imaging services.

Many Self-insured companies are beginning to discover the value and savings in this approach, while breaking free of the coverage trap and the myth that health insurance equates to health care; and the realization that so-called “access” to inflated pricing and the phony discounts used to fleece the buyer is no longer a conversation they are willing to have.

Consider the costs (of continuing the status quo) counted!

http://ushealthmedia.com/dpc-and-self-insured-employers-counting-the-costs/