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, advance-pricing, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Entrepreneurs, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Patient Safety, Patient-centered Care, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

Transparent Pricing for Medical Emergencies | The Emergency Center

What the status quo apologists and the naysayers said was impossible, is a reality:

Emergency services with transparent pricing and NO surprise bills!

“Always staffed with board-certified physicians, ICU- and ER-trained nurses, X-ray technologists and helpful administrative personnel, The Emergency Center offers the same comprehensive emergency care and treatment as a hospital ER, without the wait. State-of-the-art CT, ultrasound, x-ray, and lab services on-site combined with compassionate care provides an unparalleled patient experience.

The Emergency Center and OnDEC Health have partnered together to offer direct contracts for emergency room visits, urgent and primary care, plus telemedicine. OnDEC Health’s innovative direct contracting opportunities save employers significant dollars on ER claims, while offering their members 24/7, no-wait access to premier concierge style freestanding ERs and more.”

Peyton Vooletich

Director of Business Development

https://www.theemergencycenter.com/fort-worth-er/

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Entrepreneurs, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Patient Safety, Patient-centered Care, Policy Issues, Price Tansparency, Quality, Uncategorized

Transparent Pricing for Medical Emergencies | The Emergency Center

What the status quo apologists and the naysayers said was impossible, is a reality:

Emergency services with transparent pricing and NO surprise bills!

“Always staffed with board-certified physicians, ICU- and ER-trained nurses, X-ray technologists and helpful administrative personnel, The Emergency Center offers the same comprehensive emergency care and treatment as a hospital ER, without the wait. State-of-the-art CT, ultrasound, x-ray, and lab services on-site combined with compassionate care provides an unparalleled patient experience.

The Emergency Center and OnDEC Health have partnered together to offer direct contracts for emergency room visits, urgent and primary care, plus telemedicine. OnDEC Health’s innovative direct contracting opportunities save employers significant dollars on ER claims, while offering their members 24/7, no-wait access to premier concierge style freestanding ERs and more.”

Peyton Vooletich

Director of Business Development

https://www.theemergencycenter.com/fort-worth-er/

Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, Consumer-Driven Health Care, Direct-Pay Medicine, Direct-Pay Practice Models, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Independent Physicians, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Patient Compliance, Patient Safety, Patient-centered Care, Policy Issues, primary care, The Quadruple Aim, Third-Party Free Practices, Uncategorized, Wait times to see a doctor

More Patients Turning to ‘Direct Primary Care’ | Medscape

Christine Lehmann, MA

February 11, 2020

Having quick access to a primary care doctor 24/7 is very appealing to Mick Lowderman, 56, who is married with two children, ages 10 and 8. He pays a monthly membership fee to AtlasMD, a direct primary care practice in Wichita, KS.

Primary care is built on the long-term relationship between clinicians and patients. A 10- to 15-minute patient visit doesn’t support that relationship, Sullivan says.

When Kevin Boyd, 64, fell on his stairs in Wichita and broke three ribs, he didn’t go the emergency room. Instead, he called Umbehr, who told him to come to his office. He referred Boyd nearby for an X-ray and dispensed pain medications at his office. The total cost was $70.

In contrast, the first time Boyd fell and broke his ribs, he had Blue Cross Blue Shield and drove himself to the ER, where he saw the ER doctor, a radiologist for an MRI, and got shots for his pain. The total bill was $14,000, and he paid $2,600.

“I don’t put off care the way I used to because of the money I save,” says Boyd, who joined AtlasMD in 2015.
For his monthly membership fee of $75, Boyd gets several benefits, including unlimited 24/7 access to Umbehr by text, email, or phone, extended same- or next-day office visits, and free diagnostic tests and office procedures, such as EKGs, DEXA scans, and body fat analysis. If Boyd gets really sick and needs a house call, or if he needs a phone consult when traveling, those are also included in the fee.
Posted in Access to healthcare, advance-pricing, CPT billing, Economic Issues, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Medical Costs, Medicare, Network Discounts, out-of-pocket costs, Patient Choice, Policy Issues, Uncategorized

Fallacy of the Discount: Why Price Transparency Matters

Why is the price of a CT scan 33 times higher in a hospital emergency room than in an outpatient imaging center just down the street?https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/04/09/598794123/bill-of-the-month-a-tale-of-2-ct-scanners-one-richer-one-poorer

Hynden was shocked when he got the second CT scan in January, and the listed price was $8,897 — 33 times what he paid for the first test.

Gulf Coast Medical Center is part of his Cigna insurance plan’s approved network of providers. But even with Cigna’s negotiated discount, Hynden was on the hook for $3,394.49 for the scan. The additional ER costs added $261.76 more to that bill.

The higher price from Gulf Coast and its parent company could be a result of their enormous pricing power in Fort Myers, says Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University.

Lee Health owns the four major hospitals in the Fort Myers area, as well as a children’s hospital and a rehabilitation hospital, according to its website. It also owns several physician practices in the area. When you drive around Fort Myers, the blue-green Lee Health logo appears on buildings everywhere.

“Anybody who’s in Fort Myers is going to want to get care at these hospitals. So by having a dominant position, they have great bargaining power,” Anderson says. “So they can raise their rates, and they still do OK.”

Anderson says his research shows hospital consolidation has been driving prices higher and higher in recent years. And because more and more people, like Hynden, have high-deductible insurance plans, they’re more likely to be on the hook for huge bills.

So Lee Health and other dominant hospital systems mark up most of their services on their master price lists — the list that prices a CT scan at Lee Health at $8,897. Anderson calls those lists “fairy-tale prices” because almost no one actually pays them.

“Everybody who’s taken a look at it agrees — including the CFO of the organization — that it’s a fairy-tale thing, but it does have relevance,” Anderson says.

The relevance is that insurance companies usually negotiate what they’ll pay at discounted rates from list prices.

So from the master price of $8,897, Cigna negotiated Hynden’s bill down to $5,516.14 — a discount of almost 40 percent. Then Cigna paid $2,864.08, leaving Hynden to pay the rest.”

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/04/09/598794123/bill-of-the-month-a-tale-of-2-ct-scanners-one-richer-one-poorer

Posted in Access to healthcare, DC & Related Shenanigans, Economic Issues, Education, government incompetence, Government Regulations, Health Insurance, Healthcare financing, Influence peddling, Medical Costs, medical inflation, Medicare, News From Washington, Organizational structure, Policy Issues, Reforming Medicaid, Reforming Medicare, Tax Policy, Uncategorized

The History Of U.S. Health Policy Is A History Of Political Exploitation

Greg Scandlen

By Greg Scandlen

It all began with a concept known as “Roemer’s Law.” If you ask anyone who has studied health economics or health policy in the last 50 years, “What is Roemer’s Law?” each will be able to tell you in an instant: “That means a built bed is a filled bed.”

Milton Roemer, MD, was a researcher and professor, mostly at the University of California-Los Angeles, who spent a lifetime (he died in 2001) advocating for national health systems around the world. He was involved in creating the World Health Organization in 1951 and Saskatchewan’s provincial single-payer system in 1953.  His “law” was based on a single study he did in 1959 that found a correlation between the number of hospital beds per person and the rate of hospital days used per person. That’s it. That is the whole basis for “Roemer’s Law.”

“A built bed is a filled bed.” This little bumper sticker slogan has been the foundation of American health policy for 60 years. Hundreds of laws, massive programs, thousands of regulations at the federal, state, and local levels of government, all have been based on this slogan. It is the source of such concepts as “provider-induced demand,” and has resulted in centralized health planning, Certificate of Need regulations, managed care, and everything else currently on the table. Yet this “law” is both verifiably untrue and illogical.

There is a kernel of truth to it. When third-party payers pick up the tab, the usual tension between buyer and seller doesn’t exist. The buyer has no reason to resist excessive prices if someone else pays the bill.

But the believers in Roemer’s Law take that core idea to Alice-In-Wonderland proportions. They argue that, therefore, whenever a health-care provider wants to make more money, it simply has to sell more — more capacity equals more sales without end. So, the only way to reduce this endless consumption is to limit the capacity — place strict controls on the availability of services. But the notion fails for several reasons:

Source: The History Of U.S. Health Policy Is A History Of Political Exploitation

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 Access to healthcare, Economic Issues, Education, Government Regulations, Healthcare financing, Influence peddling, Medical Costs, Medical Practice Models, Organizational structure, outcomes, outcomes measurement, Policy Issues, Protocols, The Quadruple Aim, The Triple Aim, Uncategorized

Aim your baloney detector at the BS in health care – STAT


BS, what Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt once calleda “lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are,” has probably been around since the beginning of language.

Health care has an acute BS problem, in part because BS can sometimes fill the bill.

“Suppose you are asked to address an ageless problem in health care: reduce costs while simultaneously raising quality. If you were knowledgeable to begin with or did some research, you would know there is no easy solution. You could respond with a message of failure or a discussion of inevitable trade-offs.

But you could also pick an idea with some internal plausibility and political appeal, surround it with careful but conditional language, and launch a program. It will, you note, take several years before it is successful, but you and your colleagues will argue for the idea in concept, with the details to be worked out later.

At a minimum, unqualified acceptance of such ideas, even (and especially) by apparently qualified people, will waste resources that could have been used to make the best of what we currently have, and will lead to enormous frustration for the audience of politicians and outraged critics of the current system who want answers and want them now.

The incentives to generate BS are not likely to diminish — if anything, rising spending and stagnant health outcomes strengthen them…

…educator, media theorist, and cultural critic Neil Postman said that “helping kids to activate their crap-detectors should take precedence over any other legitimate educational aim …
We have carried Postman’s banner into academia with two reports, one in 2018and another this year, that identify 21 different forms of BS in health care. Here are our top 10:”

https://www.statnews.com/2019/05/03/bs-health-care-baloney-detector/