Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medicaid, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medical Practice Models, Medicare, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

G. Keith Smith, M.D. — Health “Coverage” as a Distraction


I think it is good to be alert to any discussions that are “downstream of a flawed premise.” Let me explain.

When I hear, for instance, that the “flat tax” is preferable to the current income tax, I think to myself that this is a discussion of the knife versus the axe, a conversation far downstream of one addressing government spending or the very legitimacy of denying someone their earnings. After all, victims don’t generally care what the mugger does with their money. They just resent being mugged and no discussion about whether the mugger used a knife or a gun will likely provide any solace.

Similarly, I would argue that arguing for everyone to have health “coverage” is far downstream of the more original problem: the cost of healthcare. To provide “coverage” for everyone in the current climate of gross overcharging primarily serves the interests of those who employ the “what can I get away with” method of medical pricing.

The fierce push back against true price transparency by the cronies in the medical industry makes more sense in this context, as price honesty denies them access to everyone’s blank checkbook as the health cronies are well aware.

Supporters of government-guaranteed “coverage” object with the following arguments.

First, coverage is equated with healthcare. While millions of Canadians streaming across the border to secure their health needs could be used to refute the idea that coverage is synonymous with care, this disconnect has become more apparent in this country. Each passing day reveals Medicaid and Medicare “coverage” to be a “black mark,” an actual obstacle to obtaining care, as these government programs and their associated rationing through price controls and hassles are creating the lines the central planners intended. Physicians are either dropping out of these programs altogether or they are limiting their exposure to patients with this “coverage.”

Another objection points to the relief from financial devastation that having “coverage” represents. Keep in mind that not only are well over half of the bankruptcies in this country medically related, but almost three quarters of those filing for medical bankruptcy have insurance. This points powerfully to cost as the root cause of medical economic ills.

Acknowledging this is a slippery slope for the objector, however, for no economic system better provides for resource allocation than the market and the cronies and their government pals know this as well as anyone.

The market is the only source of price deflation with simultaneous improvement in quality. This powerful competitive mechanism has brought affordability to countless products and services in all industries and has begun to bring rationality to health care pricing as more physicians and facilities honestly post their prices for all to see.

Rather than focus on “coverage,” which allows the cronies to continue their financial feeding frenzy, we should remain unalterably focused on cost. The competition unleashed will result in a medical price deflation the likes of which will cause even the most skeptical objector to re-evaluate the role of “coverage” in the provision of payment for health care.

This is no prediction. This is exactly what is happening here in Oklahoma where so many health professionals have embraced the same market discipline every other industry must endure. The reasonable prices and high quality of care, have had such a wide appeal that Oklahoma City has evolved into a medical tourist destination for many patients far from here, while simultaneously bringing savings in the millions of dollars to those who actually pay for healthcare, locally.

This is my answer to another objection from those who claim the inapplicability of market competition to health care.  Whether the focus on “coverage” is a deliberate distraction by the crony propaganda machine or a well-meaning but misguided attempt to provide better access to care, we must keep our eyes on the “price transparency ball.” The Oklahoma market is already harshly judging those attempting to avoid this gaze and I believe this trend will continue as long as we identify, challenge and reject conclusions downstream of their flawed premises.

Posted in Access to healthcare, Consumer-Driven Health Care, Defined Contribution Benefit Plans, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, Policy Issues, Tax Policy, third-party payments, Uncategorized

Who Pays for Your Healthcare Matters

By Robert Nelson

Zero co-pays. No co-insurance. No surprise medical bills! Considering the inflated prices we pay for healthcare, who could pass up that deal, right?

Are the new generation of value-based employer-sponsored Direct Contracting Health Plans, which often include Direct Primary Care, a great deal and more efficient use of our healthcare dollars? Absolutely yes!

real-health-care-expenditures-and-third-party-largerBut we can’t lose sight of the economic reality that individuals always pay the cost of benefits, either directly or indirectly.  And linking benefits to employment has been a colossal policy mistake and the genesis of job-lock and our 3rd-party payer system, which has been the source of runaway costs for 50 years. As the graph illustrates, insurance (3rd party payer) is now a near surrogate for total healthcare costs!

Don’t be fooled. Within the modern paradigm of healthcare financing, employers don’t pay for our healthcare. Our healthcare expense, no matter how it is structured, IS part of our compensation and a huge portion of of it.

images-223535545945618981307.jpgFACT: Every dollar of tax-favored benefits paid by our employer reduces our take-home pay.

The beauty of Direct Primary Care is the portability (no job lock) and affordability which can exist independent of the size or benefit package of the employer. But the foundation which aligns the incentives is based on the identity of the customer. This is why we have to be careful to match the buyer with the recipient of care whenever possible. To insert another 3rd party, even the employer, undermines the sovereignty of the patient and the independence of the physician.

The supply side of healthcare has served the wrong customers for far too long. DPC should not make that same fatal error by exchanging its essence for a pipeline of patients.

This linkage highlights the importance of policy decisions regarding use of HSA funds; the importance of allowing HSA dollars to pay premiums AND DPC fees can’t be overstated.

For DPC, and Direct Contracting at-large, to dig us out from under the boot of the 3rd party apparatus it must remain accessible to the sole proprietor, independent contractor and very small businesses that don’t have “health plans.” And moving to defined contribution plans and away from defined benefit plans will help get us there.

third-party-2Getting first dollar decisions in hands of consumers will also be deflationary and spur competition; and essential to the goal of eventual portability & ownership of benefits. To do otherwise, with too much focus on a new & improved generation of employer-sponsored healthcare plans, will lead us right back to where we started.

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), CPT billing, Deductibles, Dependency, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Economic Issues, Employee Benefits, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Individual Market, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medical Practice Models, Organizational structure, outcomes measurement, Patient Choice, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Self-Insured Companies, Self-Insured Plans, The Triple Aim, Uncategorized

U.S. Healthcare: A Case Study of What Happens When “Insurance” Supplants Price-Transparent Markets

By Robert Nelson, MD

Our health insurance-based third-party payer protocols have pernicious and nefarious economic consequences on the cost of medical care; and in many ways has diminished access due to regulatory complexities that accompany these interventions.

The undeniable result continues to be a rampant increase in healthcare prices, which is catalyzed by the economic distortions of the 3rd party payer effect and perpetuated by the price-obscuring distortions of the CPT billing cycle.

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 to achieve maximal 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.

“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.” ~KFF.org

Between 2012 – 2017, 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.

The costs associated with health plan premiums (aka insurance) have become a surrogate for health-care costs.

Now let that sink in!

In what other market does the cost of an insurance product act as substitute for the aggregate cost of the product or services that it insures?

Now apply a similar scenario to the auto insurance market. It doesn’t take much imagination to extrapolate how that would play out. But if you want some help visualizing the scenario, here’s a brief vignette. https://lnkd.in/eUGeCKv

Self-insured employer health plans are in a unique position to break out of this dependency paradox.

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.

Data from the Qliance experience, and supported by other self-insured employer’s experiences, utilization of efficient primary care via the DPC model reduces unnecessary downstream care by approximately 50%, with the resultant aggregate cost savings of nearly 20%.

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.

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.

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.

Posted in Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, News From Washington, DC & Related Shenanigans, Policy Issues, Risk Adjustment, Risk Corridors, Rule of Law, Uncategorized

Justices grapple with multibillion-dollar ObamaCare case | TheHill

Several of the arguments in this case have credence on their face for different reasons.

There is the idea of an agreement or contract: “I do this, if you do that.” One should not break a contract carelessly.

Or, the “fairness” argument where one side seems to want to change the rules after the game started; that doesn’t seem right.

And, then there’s the constitutional rule of law argument: Congress holds the power of the purse when it comes to public monies. Enough said.

Bottom line…and in a different case, Qliance found this out the hard way…when you get in bed with the gov’t, expect to get screwed!

Forum for Healthcare Freedom

https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/473895-justices-grapple-with-multibillion-dollar-obamacare-case

Posted in Access to healthcare, Accountable Care Organizations, Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), CPT billing, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Influence peddling, Medical Costs, Medicare, Patient Choice, Patient Safety, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Uncategorized

Wax: Making a Killing in American Health Care, a Step-by-Step Guide

Master this how-to guide and you’ll be on your way.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/12/03/craig-m-wax-do-making-a-killing-in-american-healthcare-a-step-by-step-guide/

Posted in Access to healthcare, Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), American Presidents, Defined Contribution Benefit Plans, Economic Issues, Employee Benefits, Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, Government Regulations, Health Insurance, Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Healthcare financing, Individual Market, Large group insurance market, Medical Costs, medical inflation, News From Washington, DC & Related Shenanigans, out-of-pocket costs, Policy Issues, Portable Insurance, Price Tansparency, Uncategorized

Trump could revolutionize the private health insurance market

Some believe the Individual Market is too weak to revive, given the hit it took as as result of the ACA.

I am optimistic that this ruling to utilize HRA is this manner will be a “shot in the arm” and revitalize the market again.

This article below highlights the benefits of a defined contribution approach as a means to purchase health insurance. Anything that makes us less dependent on ESI and gives more portability & options, freeing the labor market from job-lock is a good thing. – Forum for Healthcare Freedom

Avek Roy

“Last week, the White House finalized a rule that allows employers to fund health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that can be used by workers to buy their own coverage on the individual market. This subtle, technical tweak has the potential to revolutionize the private health insurance market…

The council found an elegant way to give employers the opportunity to voluntarily convert their health benefits from a defined benefit into a defined contribution. For example, an employer could fund an HRA for each worker and their family, which they could then use to shop for a plan that best suits their needs.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-could-revolutionize-the-private-health-insurance-market/2019/06/17/bc8ccce4-9124-11e9-aadb-74e6b2b46f6a_story.html

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.

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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, Economic Issues, Education, Employee Benefits, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, Organizational structure, outcomes measurement, Patient Choice, Patient Safety, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, The Quadruple Aim, Uncategorized

University of Lynchburg launches Master of Health Benefits Design – University of Lynchburg

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Tom Scott, Ph.D.

“There’s a need for cohesive education that shows corporations and benefits advisors how to tie together value-based approaches to health care that provide higher quality health care at significantly lower costs,” program director Dr. Tom Scott said. “Health care is expensive and unnecessarily complex. This program not only makes health care understandable, but it shows the way to lower costs and better outcomes.”

https://www.lynchburg.edu/news/2019/02/university-of-lynchburg-launches-master-of-health-benefits-design/