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The Republican Establishment’s Failure

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

I am coming to the conclusion that the Republican establishment does not want to Repair the Healthcare System.

The Republican establishment has the same goal as the Democratic establishment.

Recently the mainstream media is saying that a single party payer system is looking good.

Neither party has any interest is having consumers control their healthcare dollars. It looks as if both parties want the government to control the consumer’s healthcare dollars.

All the politicians ignore the fact that government control is unaffordable. It also ends up not working.

The best example is the bureaucratic VA Hospital System and its system wide corruption.

A reader wrote:

I have read your last blog post carefully and agree with many of the points put forward but there is a glaring omission.” 

 “How are patients supposed to be responsible for their healthcare dollars when there is absolutely no transparency and no consistency in pricing.”

The lack of transparency is a major defect in our present healthcare system.

Only 20% of consumers use the healthcare system at any one time. Eighty percent of the consumers have not run into the lack of transparency problem in the healthcare system.

Most consumers do not care about transparency because they have first dollar coverage provided by their employer. They think their medical care is free. They believe they have excellent healthcare insurance.

President Obama took care of that notion with Obamacare. The defective structure of Obamacare caused healthcare insurance premiums and deductibles to skyrocket. First dollar healthcare insurance became too expensive for most employers.

Employers stopped providing first dollar coverage. Middle class employees are now noticing that out of pocket expenses have made their healthcare insurance unaffordable. Consumers have tried to compare prices of competitive providers. They have discovered that it is impossible!

Consumers are becoming aware of the lack of transparency. They have been astonished by this lack of transparency.

There is nothing in the new Republican bill that addresses Republican politicians’ awareness that the lack of transparency is a major defect in the healthcare system.

The lack of transparency is only one of the major defects in our healthcare system.

There is nothing in the Republican bill that speaks to the consumers’ responsibility for their health and healthcare dollars. Consumer driven healthcare is completely ignored.

There is nothing in the bill that addresses effective tort reform. The Massachusetts Medical Society survey showed that defensive testing to avoid lawsuits costs the healthcare system between $250 billion to $700 billion dollars a year.

The lack of the development of systems of care for chronic diseases cost another $700 billion dollars a year that our healthcare system does not address. There is nothing in the bill that emphasizes this very important defect in the healthcare system.

The Republican establishment thinks consumers are too stupid to take care of themselves.

The mainstream media likes to tell us that people love entitlements. The public does not want to give up these entitlements.

My question is how come less than 9 million people signed up for Obamacare’s individual healthcare plans last year if they love entitlements?

It is because they cannot afford to buy the health exchange insurance even though 85% of the premiums of those 9 million consumers are subsided by the government. Their high deductibles are not subsidized.

The Republicans are going claim they are promoting health savings accounts. The public is not told the amount of money they can put into a health savings account or whether it will provide first dollar coverage over that amount if they get sick.

There is no financial incentive for consumers to be responsible for their healthcare or their healthcare dollars.

My Ideal Medical Saving Account is a much better idea.

These are only a few of the major defects in the Republican establishment’s concept to fix the healthcare system.

President Obama did some of the awful things to Obamacare through rules and regulations after certain vested interests complained about the law. Obamacare’s rules and regulations have to be eliminated

There were crony waivers that would make one’s blood boil. In fact, elected congressional members got the best exemptions.

It is becoming apparent that congress doesn’t want to fix the healthcare system for the majority of Americans. The congressional establishment wants to control consumers.

Socialism does not work!

Socialsim for blog

Our political establishment does not tell us about the economic result in other countrys’ single party payer universal healthcare systems.

We don’t have to go to other countries. We only have to go to the indigent areas in California were everyone is covered by Medicaid.

The Republican establishment needs to get off the stick before all of them are kicked out of congress.

Just imagine the healthcare systems savings if every consumer were empowered to shop for the best healthcare at the best price.

The result would be a free market healthcare system in which competition would cleanse the system and make it affordable to everyone.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone.

All Rights Reserved © 2006 – 2017 “Repairing The Healthcare System” Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

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What Are The Republicans in the Senate Doing?

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the Republican establishment in both houses of congress are trying to torpedo Donald Trump’s agenda.

Republicans had seven years to coordinate a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The House of Representative’s bill has finally past. Senate committees are stalling progress of the bill.

Both houses should have had all the debates and consensus reached to during the last seven years.

Why would congressmen try to stall the passage of the bill? President Trump has stated that passage of the budget bill is dependent on passage of the healthcare bill.

The reason is obvious to me.

President Trump has pledge to those who voted for him that he is going to drain the swamp in Washington. He is going to eliminate corruption and streamline the bloated bureaucracy.

The Republican establishment is a big part of the swamp. They are thriving in the swamp they helped create.

President Trump represents a direct threat to their power. The Republican establishment does not realize that the only reason they have a majority in both houses is because of the rebellion within the party against the Republican establishment.

Tea partyers and independents voted for unknown candidates and defeated many establishment Republicans in the primaries.

The goal of the Republican establishment is to weaken President Trump’s agenda.

They don’t understand that they are destroying the Republican Party while they are trying to save their own swamp.

It is time the Republicans in the Senate passed the bill.

Regulations that should be eliminated are any regulations that increase bureaucratic control over the healthcare system and the practice of medicine.

The healthcare community knows how to control the costs of chronic diseases. It is by decreasing the onset of complications. Patients have to participate in controlling their chronic disease.

If a healthcare system was developed to control the costs of these chronic diseases, the United States would not only have the best healthcare system in the world we would have the most cost effective healthcare system in the world.

“In the case of diabetes, for example, the American Diabetes Association reports that the total cost of that debilitating disease amounted to $245 billion in 2012. This includes $176 billion in direct medical costs, and $69 billion in lost productivity.”

The key to diabetes control and the avoidance of diabetes complications is to control blood sugar to a close to normal as possible. This takes a lot of work on the patient’s part. Patients need the education and the motivation to become the professor of their disease and control their blood sugar.

  As Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a physician, recently noted, diabetic seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare still do not have access to continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), a medical technology today covered by 95 percent of private health plans. ’’

It is bizarre. Yet, Republican Senators who should have figured this out over the last seven years are debating small points that will have little effect on the clinical outcomes. The Republican Party has an opportunity of a lifetime to fix the healthcare system for the American people.

Republicans are going to waste this opportunity to serve the people in order to preserve their swamp that has gotten the people into this horrible position.

I am afraid we are going to see this behavior of perpetuating waste when it comes to education, the environment and energy.

The Democratic Party is worse. They are not acting in the peoples’ interest. They are trying to obstruct everything President Trump is trying to accomplish.

They criticize every initiative saying it is bad without providing reasons for why it is bad.

I believe it is time for the members of both parties to get off the stick. They must stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about the welfare of Americans.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone.

All Rights Reserved © 2006 – 2017 “Repairing The Healthcare System” Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

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What Is Patient-Centered Healthcare?

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

Patient-Centered Healthcare is a new buzz phrase. It has become popular among Republicans in the last few years.

I have a feeling most people do not know what physicians mean by patient-centered healthcare.

The true definition is that patients are in the center of the medical care interaction. Patients determine their needs and their physicians. Patients drive the medical encounter. Neither the government nor the insurance industries drive the medical encounter.

A fatal floor in Obamacare was that President Obama wanted the federal government to control the healthcare system.

President Trump’s goal is to have patients in control of their own health and healthcare dollars. It is not a problem if the government or employers provide those healthcare dollars.

I believe Tom Price M.D. understands that the only system that will work is a system in which the consumers (patients) are responsible for their own health and healthcare dollars.

The government’s job is to provide incentives in the healthcare system for consumers to become responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

I am not at all sure the Republican congressional leadership understands the definition or value of patient- centered care.

Obamacare provided just the opposite. Obamacare provided incentives for consumers/patients to be dependent of government.

This fundamental tenet of patient-centered care was tested by Stewart, et.al. in 2000. 

 Experts studied audio taped doctor-patient interactions while patients also rated these same interactions. 

 Expert opinion could not be correlated with positive results, but patient-perceived patient-centered care correlated with “better recovery from their discomfort and concern, better emotional health.

 A Wikipedia definition of “Patient centered healthcare” does not exist. There are many consumer-driven healthcare definitions.

Most of the Republicans are talking about patient centered healthcare. However, they start and end with Health Savings Accounts and Consumer Driven Healthcare.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist defined patient-centered healthcare in its diabetes guidelines of 1996 and 2002. (on request)

The guidelines were a System of Intensive Self-Management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

The Type 2 Diabetic was taught to become a “professor of his/her diabetes.”

The goal was to get the diabetic blood sugar as close to normal as possible. It was shown that normalizing the blood sugar helped avoided the vascular complication of diabetes. The treatment of the vascular complications of diabetes absorbed 80% of the money spent on diabetes.

Patients live with their disease 24/7. Blood sugars are very variable. Patients need to learn how to adjust to these variables by managing their medications and lifestyle.

Patients taking a pill or a shot will not control their blood sugar unless they understand the medication and how to adjust it to have the greatest affect on the blood sugar.

The only way a patient can understand how to control their blood sugar is for them to understand how their blood sugar affects the effectiveness of the medication and how their medications and lifestyle affects their blood sugar.

This same phenomenon applies to most chronic diseases.

The only way to decrease the complications of chronic diseases is for patient to drive the treatment of their disease.

This in turn will be the only way to control healthcare costs. This is what I mean when I say patients should be in control of their health.

As an added incentive to control costs, patients should be in control of their healthcare dollars so they figure out how to use medication most affectively.

In the February 2017 Endocrine News published by the Endocrine Society there was an article interviewing four endocrinologists for their definition of patient centered care.

“In 2001, The Institute of Medicine published a book called Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century.”

“In it, the institute identified six aims for improvement of healthcare delivery, one of which was “patient-centered care,” defined as “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

The Institute of Medicine’s definition moves patients’ needs and attitudes toward patients being in the center of care. It does not place them as responsible for the management of their care. It does not include patients’ responsibility for their care.

All four of the endocrinologists got close to the definition of patient centered care. Only Carol Greenlee, MD, FACE, FACP, of Western Slope Endocrinology in Grand Junction, Colorado nailed the definition. Dr. Greenlee is the only physician in private practice.

She said:

“One of the most important things is partnership with the patient and what is called “contextualized” care, which means taking into account a patient’s needs and circumstances, goals and values.

It is also called developing a physician/patient relationship.

Another aspect is moving from the physician being at the center of the care model, with staff working to help the physician (doing tasks for the physician or other clinician such as “rooming” the patient or “scheduling” the patient for the clinician) to the staff also “taking care of the patient” as their job, with different roles on the patient-centered care team (getting the patient in for a needed appointment).

It is doing what is best for the patient (not giving the patient what they want, e.g. pain meds, MRI, antibiotics) or ask for (those things are not often best for the patient, but takes time to discuss through).

It’s taking our best science and knowledge and technology and then adapting it to meet the patient’s unique needs, circumstances, values, and goals.

It requires clearing up misconceptions (such as asking what the patient currently understands about a condition or a test or treatment), helping discuss risks and benefits in the context of that individual patient.

It requires asking not just telling, but it is not dumping everything back on to the patient.

It is taking into account the “work” (the job) of care (self-care that the patient or family need to do) on top of the illness and the rest of life that the patient and their family have to deal with and do (i.e. consideration)

Most clinicians think that they are already patient-centered because they care about their patients.

But that does not mean they provide patient-centered care or practice in a patient-centered approach.

I thought I was patient-centered because I cared but then I had to uproot my mental model to really become patient-centered.”

Republicans and their advisors do not understand the meaning of the concept of patient centered care.

Tom Price M.D. understands the concept of patient centered care.

Without the patient being in the center of the management of his/her care, the healthcare system can never be repaired and will never be financially sustainable.

I hope President Trump gets the concept in spite of the advice from congressional Republican and Democrats. Congress is trying to satisfy all the secondary vested interests. Healthcare is a big business with many secondary stakeholders. They do not want to lose this important profit center.

These stakeholders are better organized than patients or physicians to influence healthcare policy makers.

The primary stakeholders are patients with their head coaches and assistant coaches being physicians and their healthcare team.

Patients must be in the center of the healthcare team because they are the only ones that can influences the cost of medical care.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone.
All Rights Reserved © 2006 – 2017 “Repairing The Healthcare System” Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
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Listen Up: It Is All About Personal Responsibility

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

In my last blog I continued my War on Obesity. I started this war in 2007.

There has been little progress in this war because of cultural conditioning and a lack of emphasis on personal responsibility.

Every New Year’s Day millions of Americans make New Year resolutions to lose weight. They are initially successful. They then regain the weight they have lost.

If America is going to solve the healthcare systems unsustainable cost, it is going to have to solve the increasing Obesity problem.

The National Institute of Diabetes (niddk.nih} recently published Overweight and Obesity statistics:

  “More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.”

 “ More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese.”

 “ More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity.”

 “ Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.”

Each year the obesity problem gets worse. Companies have sprung up selling weight loss formulas. These companies advertise their great success.

However, most of the iconic personalities used in their advertising have regained their weight after experiencing mild or significant weight loss.

This study was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

NHANES III was designed to provide nationally representative data to estimate the prevalence of major diseases, nutritional disorders, and potential risk factors.

  • Sixty-three percent of men and 55% of women had a body mass index of 25 kg/m2 or greater.

 

  • A graded increase in the prevalence ratio (PR) was observed with increasing severity of overweight and obesity for all of the health outcomes except for coronary heart disease in men and high blood cholesterol level in both men and women.

 

  • With normal-weight individuals as the reference, for individuals with BMIs of at least 40 kg/m2 and who were younger than 55 years, PRs were highest for type 2 diabetes for men (PR, 18.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 6.7-46.8)

 

  • Women (PR, 12.9; 95% CI, 5.7-28.1]

 

  •  Gallbladder disease for men (PR, 21.1; 95% CI, 4.1-84.2) and women (PR, 5.2; 95% CI, 2.9-8.9).

 

  • Prevalence ratios generally were greater in younger than in older adults.

 

  • The prevalence of having 2 or more health conditions increased with weight status category across all racial and ethnic subgroups.

 

The Prevalence Ratio of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes is 18.1 for men and 12.9 for women.

Therefore Type 2 Diabetes is very prevalent in both Obese and Overweight men and women.

 

  • Up to 75% of adults with diabetes also have hypertension, and patients with hypertension alone often show evidence of insulin resistance.
  • Hypertension and diabetes are common, intertwined conditions that share a significant overlap in underlying risk factors (including ethnicity, familial, dyslipidemia, and lifestyle determinants) and complications.
  • These complications include microvascular and macrovascular disorders. The macrovascular complications, which are well recognized in patients with longstanding diabetes or hypertension, include coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, congestive heart failure, and peripheral vascular disease.
  • Although microvascular complications (retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy) are conventionally linked to hyperglycemia, studies have shown that hypertension constitutes an important risk factor, especially for nephropathy.

Eighty percent of the treatment costs for diabetes and hypertension to the healthcare system is the result of the treatment of the complications of hypertension and diabetes.

In order for a healthcare system to be sustainable diabetes and hypertension must be cured. It is essential that each must be recognized early and treated aggressively.

Patients must be taught to be “the professor of their disease” so they can self-manage the control of their disease. Blood pressures and blood sugar are changing continuously. Patients live with their disease 24/7.

This takes a lot of personal responsibility and personal discipline.

Equally important is the morbidity resulting from the complications of diabetes and hypertension, two diseases that result from obesity.

Complications from the onset of both hypertension and diabetes take about eight years to develop. This is the reason to diagnose and discover Pre-Diabetes at the onset.

  • The shared lifestyle factors in the etiology of hypertension and diabetes provide ample opportunity for non-pharmacological intervention.
  • Thus, the initial approach to the management of both diabetes and hypertension must emphasize weight control, physical activity, and dietary modification.

Lifestyle intervention is remarkably effective in the primary prevention of diabetes and hypertension. These principles also are pertinent to the prevention of downstream macrovascular complications of the two disorders.

This is the where my story of the importance of personal responsibility comes in.

A restaurateur, in his early 50’s, who runs a large restaurant in Dallas, that I frequent, was slowly gaining weight. At 269 lbs. he had difficulty standing on his feet all day long. He was being treated for hypertension and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).

His physician told him he must lose weight. He informed him of his risk factors for the complications of these diseases.

This was all he needed hear. The thought of having to quit the job he loved and the possibility of dying from the complications of his diseases was enough to make him decide to loss the weight.

He was told he would be fine if he lost the weight.

He has lost 70 lbs.so far without assistence. He has decided to be personally responsible for his weight loss.

He now gets up at 5 am each morning and exercises for one hour each day before work.

He has stopped eating his wonderful pasta dishes. He eats nothing that is white.

Every time I meet a friend at the restaurant, the restaurateur sits down at our table for a chat. We usually talk about how great he is doing in the weight loss department.

I had initiated an obesity program at Endocrine Associates of Dallas P.A. in the mid 1980s. A California clinical endocrinologist, with whom I did my endocrine fellowship with, had a very successful obesity program. He convinced me to start one at EAD.

Patients on large doses of insulin were totally off insulin after two weeks. It was successful until the patients graduated from the program.

Unfortunately the recidivism rate (regaining weight) was around 80%. This rate was not dissimilar to the national overage at the time.

EAD stopped the program.

In my view there were not enough patients who turned the corner and stuck to the program.

I believe the restaurateur has turned the corner. This fellow has turned the personal responsibility corner to control his food intake and exercise output. I do not believe he will regain his weight.

He has exhibited personal responsibility for his health and well-being.

If only physicians could solve the obesity problem so easily, the cost of healthcare would plummet to sustainable levels.

The development of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus would also plummet and the cost of the treatment of its complications would vanish.

Social change is necessary in restaurants and fast food chains.

People have to be taught to eat wisely in restaurants and at home.

People have to be provided with education about the perils of obesity.

People have to understand the natural history of obesity.

People have to be motivated to not only maintain their health. They have to be given financial incentives to control their health.

This can only be achieved with a consumer driven healthcare system in which people are provided with incentives to control their healthcare dollars.

My ideal medical savings account will provide all the appropriate incentives for all people of all economic levels.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone.

All Rights Reserved © 2006 – 2017 “Repairing The Healthcare System” Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

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Let’s Get Smart

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Lies About Government Spending

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

President Obama and the mainstream media have been bragging about how well Obamacare is working. They cite that Obamacare is bringing down government health-spending growth.

However they have not been telling the truth. They have taken numbers out of context and have spun a lie.

The evidence presented by federal actuaries is that health growth has been under 4% in the five years prior to 2014.

The Obama administration has made a big deal out of this finding. President Obama has bragged that he is bending the cost curve with Obamacare.

His statements are deceptive. It means government health spending growth has been just under 4%. It is still increasing by 4% year to year and not the usual 6%-10% increase.  

Obamacare spending for direct medical care did not go into effect until 2014. All that went into effect was increases in taxes from 2010 until 2014 and spending on the growth of the bureaucracy resulting in a 4% growth. The math had nothing to do with increased direct medical care.

According to federal actuaries, spending on all health care grew 5.5% in 2014. Actual enrollment was lower than expected enrollment in 2014.

2014 was the first year of spending on direct medical care. Healthcare spending will continue to increase in 2015 to 5.3%. The reason is spending for Obamacare took affect in 2014 and continued in 2015. The reason for the slight predicted percentage decrease for 2015 is at least two fold. Less people signed up for Obamacare in 2015 than predicted and reimbursement for physicians and hospitals decreased.

Other reasons for a government decrease in spending are consumers are paying a greater share of their medical bills and reining in their use of medical care services.

One in three Americans said they or a family member delayed medical care because of costs in 2014, according to a report late last year by survey company Gallup.”

President Obama and his administration are deceiving the American public about the success of Obamacare.

The cost to taxpayers and people who are insured has actually increased. President Obama continually tells us costs are decreasing.

The mainstream media, especially The New York Times and Paul Krugman, continually repeat the lie. If you repeat a lie enough times people begin to believe it is the truth.

A reader asked me where did the New York Times readers leave their thinking apparatus. Someone else pointed out that the New York Times readership is decreasing because the newspaper has lost its credibility.

The New York Times opinions seem to be presented without supporting evidence.

The truth is premiums are increasing, coverage is decreasing and insurance deductibles are increasing for everyone including the middle class. Access to medical treatment is decreasing. Out of pocket expenses are skyrocketing.

The deception continues unchallenged by Republicans. No one is talking about the fact that the Obama administration is lying about what is happening on the ground.

“According to a report from actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published in the journal Health Affairs. In the years through 2024, spending growth is expected to average 5.8%, peaking at 6.3% in 2020.”

The cost of healthcare to the government is going to increase further and faster than predicted by federal actuaries as a result of expanded government insurance coverage under the 2010 health law, and the ever expanding Medicare’s baby-boom beneficiaries entering Medicare age.

As technology increases and as the baby boomers enter Medicare and more expensive life-saving drugs are developed costs to the government are going to increase.

The cost of pharmaceuticals is reported to have increased by 12% last year. The deals the government makes with the pharmaceutical companies are pathetic. The prices continue to mount for the government as consumer out of pocket costs for drugs increase.

By 2024 healthcare costs to the government and consumers are projected to be over 20% of our GDP and rising at the present Obamacare rate.

Americans will be older and sicker.

There is little government focus on helping our population become motivated to become  healthier and more responsible for their health and their own healthcare as they age.

Obamacare is forcing Americans to become more dependent on the government for their healthcare needs.

Hopefully, people are noticing that government does not work and more government will be a disaster to our medical and financial health.

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Trust Is An Important Word

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

Trust is confidence in the honesty or integrity of a person or thing. An example of trust is the belief that someone is being truthful.

 The world is complex. As individuals we cannot know and do everything. We must assign surrogates to express and carry out our will.                                                           

We must trust those surrogates. When those surrogate seem to deceive us we distrust them.

In the past six years Americans’ trust in their leaders has been eroded.

It seems that our government surrogates have tried to deceive us over and over again. I have discussed almost all the instances the Obama administration has deceived the American people with respect to Obamacare i.e If you like your doctor you can keep you doctor” to name one.

The State Department has deceived us about Benghasi and with the outlines of the nuclear agreement. The Clintons have deceived us with their Clinton Foundation donations and the perception of undu pedaling of influence.

The result is public distrust of our institutions and each other. They have promoted distrust and  media is the message.

Atul Gawande M.D., a surgeon and public-health researcher, became a New Yorker staff writer in 1998. He contributed greatly in the public healthcare arena in 2007 making surgery safer by creating a pre-op, inter-op and post-op surgical checklist.

He has also created a checklist for delivery of babies in under-developed countries. These checklists have decreased morbidity and mortality.

I am a Gawande fan. He is a good thinker. However, in my view, he has a few blind spots. These blind spots showed up in his most recent article “Overkill.”  

Dr. Gawande’s problem is that even if his observations are somewhat correct they are not universally valid. He proves that his observations are not totally correct as he describes his approach to clinical practice.

His approach to clinical practice is to do less, not more. However, he does not consider the potential unintended consequences of doing less.

Most of his writings in the New Yorker criticize physicians and their practice of medicine.

 The articles could be interpreted as an attack of practicing physicians’ care. It could erode consumers’ confidence in their physicians causing them to mistrust all physicians and their clinical judgment and advice.

 Dr. Gawande should reexamine some of his premises. He should focus on educating both consumers and physicians as he did with his surgical checklist.

 Yellow journalism does not solve the healthcare system’s problems. It creates greater problems.

 In this New Yorker article his blind spot is well illustrated. He initially quotes Kenneth Arrow an economist who in 1963 won a Noble Prize in Economics for describing a vital problem economic call information asymmetry.”

“There is a severe disadvantages that buyers have when they know less about a good than the seller does.”

Kenneth Arrow pointed out that the prime example was health care. Doctors generally know more about the value of a given medical treatment than patients, who have little ability to determine the quality of the advice they are getting.”

Kenneth Arrow is absolutely right. Since 1963 many industries have worked to solve this problem of information asymmetry using the Internet to make consumers Prosumers.

Physician leaders knew Arrow was absolutely correct. Some have tried to correct the situation through patient education and the developed System of Care through the use of Chronic Disease Treatment Teams.

To me this represents a constructive approach to information asymmetry in the healthcare system rather than the approach of stimulating consumers to mistrust their physicians.

There is a simple solution. Patients must be empowered to understand their disease and the options they have for treatment. They must also take responsibility for their care.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists initiated the team approach for the treatment of Diabetes Mellitus in the 1990’s. It was called “A System of Intensive Self-Management of Type II Diabetes Mellitus.”

Teaching patients to intensively control their own blood sugars and helping patients become the “professor of their disease” can decrease the complication rate by at least 50%.

The complications of diabetes result in 80% of the cost of diabetes to the healthcare system. Managing Diabetes Mellitus correctly also decreases the pain and suffering resulting from this devastating disease.

It took twenty years for the government and the healthcare insurance industry to support this notion of chronic disease management.

AACE wrote guidelines outlining the development of Diabetes Education Centers wherein patients with diabetes were the center of the Diabetes team with physicians being the coach of the team and nurse educators, dieticians, exercise therapists, psychiatrists or psychologists being the assistant coaches and an extension of the physician’s care. 

“A System of Intensive Self-Management of Type II Diabetes Mellitus.”

It is critical patients take responsibility for their diabetes care.  They must not be passive about their treatment. They must judge the quality of their treatment. If it is not excellent they need to move on. The problem might be that the patients’ healthcare plan will not permit the patient to choose those physicians and care provders in Obamacare.

Consumers have abrogated their responsibility for their treatment and the cost of their treatment to a third party. This problem originated when they were able to buy first dollar healthcare insurance coverage. Consumers were not and are still not at financial risk even though their health is at risk.

This system of disease management demands that patients become responsible for the management of their disease.

Our health is our most valuable asset. We must be responsible for our health.

Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges continue promote the same defect in our healthcare system.  It does not encourage patients to be careful about healthcare dollars or the responsibility for their healthcare.

“Doctors, therefore, are in a powerful position. We can recommend care of little or no value because it enhances our incomes, because it’s our habit, or because we genuinely but incorrectly believe in it, and patients will tend to follow our recommendations.”

Please note that Gawande indicts physicians in his second sentence for recommending care of little or no value because it enhances income.

In fact ordering a CAT scan, MRI or lab work does not enhance physicians’ income unless the physicians own the machinery. Hospitals and independent testing centers own the machinery to do these tests and make the profit. Therefore his reason for “Overkill” is not primary.

Dr. Gawande goes on to expand Professor Arrow’s argument about over-testing in a system of information asymmetry.”

“Another powerful force toward unnecessary care emerged years after Arrow’s paper: the phenomenon of overtesting, which is a by-product of all the new technologies we have for peering into the human body.”

“The United States is a country of three hundred million people who annually undergo around fifteen million nuclear medicine scans, a hundred million CT and MRI scans, and almost ten billion laboratory tests.”

New technologies have ben a boom to the practice of good medical care. It could be argued that someone getting hit in the head and developing a long lasting headache should get a CAT scan or MRI of the brain rather than pre MRI, CAT scan era, a skull x-ray that would tell us almost nothing.

Perhaps the unnecessary care is not so unnecessary. Perhaps it is important to know the baseline study results of tests to understand the progression of an illness and controlthrough blood testing.  

There does seem to be too much testing. What might be the cause?

Dr. Gawande overlooks a very important cause of over-testing.

It is defensive medicine. Physicians are afraid of getting sued in our litigious society if they miss something. The Massachusetts Medical Society study brought out this very important point. Physicians by their own admission over-test to avoid missing an underlying disease.

A rough estimate of the cost of over-testing in America is between $200 billion to $750 billion dollars a year as a result of defensive medicine.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanual, an advisor to President Obama, has stated that the healthcare system does not need malpractice reform because defensive medicine only cost the system $25 billion dollars a year. The cost is insignificant. He is dead wrong. He is also immune to law suits because of institutional protection. He does not appreciate the wear and tear on the physicians being sued.

As Obamacare makes the healthcare system more dysfunctional consumers have less responsibility for their healthcare. A system of socialized medicine is evolving as a result of Obamacare. The government takes care of us. We all know that Medicare is unsustainable. Intelligent well-respected folks like Antul Gawade use questionable logic to unintentionally erode peoples’ trust in physicians and their judgment.

Meanwhile taxes continue to rise and America is digging itself into a deeper financial hole.

The question should be how do we do things in a constructive  rather than a destructive way.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone

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Simple, Viable Republican Alternatives To Obamacare

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE

There are many simple and viable alternatives to Obamacare which Republicans should start considering.

Republicans should seriously consider My Ideal Medical Savings Account as an alterative to Obamacare. It is logical, simple, does not require a large complicated infrastructure and aligns all the stakeholders’ incentives.

It is easy for consumers to understand.

Consumers want to have choices. The dysfunction of our healthcare system has gotten to the point where most consumers don’t have a choice. Consumers simply do not know they lost their freedom of choice and access to care until they get sick.

Consumers think they have adequate healthcare coverage until they get sick. Only 20% of the population gets sick.

The other 80% of the population refuses to think about the problem.

When they do experience illness, the dysfunction in the healthcare system makes them furious. They want to blame someone. Physicians are usually the targets of their frustration.  

Most physicians are trapped in a situation that causes them to fight for their own survival for all the reasons I have previously enumerated. This creates a more dysfunctional healthcare system.

All the stakeholders fight for their own vested interests. These vested interests have become misaligned. The vested interest of the government is to control of the system and decrease its costs.  

Costs cannot be controlled by regulations without consumer involvement.   Consumers of healthcare must understand the effectiveness of their care is dependent on their involvement in their own medical care.

Consumers’ adherence to treatment is a key component in the effectiveness of medical care.

Medical costs cannot be controlled by government price fixing.

Medical costs cannot be controlled by government restrictions to access of care. Consumers will become sicker resulting in a higher cost illness.

Consumers must be empowered to be intelligent, motivated and responsible consumers of medical care. Only then can healthcare costs be controlled.

A functional healthcare system must provide financial incentives to consumers in order for them to want to be empowered to control costs. Consumers should not be dependent on the government to control costs.

The government must repair the actuary and accounting rules of the healthcare insurance industry. Insurance reserves should not be scored as a loss to justify premium increases.

The healthcare insurance industry takes 40 cents off the top of every insurance dollar that is spent. Consumers with both private insurance and government insurance are only getting 60 cents value for every healthcare dollar spent. The healthcare industry is allowed to do some strange accounting with their required reserves.

If this accounting method were repaired, premium costs would decrease.

Effective malpractice reform would result in a significant decrease in healthcare costs. The Obama administration refuses to believe tort reform is needed.  

Many of the rules written into Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid are so screwy they defy common sense and penalize consumers. One glaring rule is Medicare permitting hospitals to admit Medicare patients to the hospital for observation for 48 hours.

Medicare does not pay for Observation admissions. Patients have to pay out of pocket for these admissions.

Consumers must become aware of these screwy rules and protest them. These rules have been written by the Obama administration to save the government money. These rules penalize patients the government professes to help.

Consumers are the only stakeholders that can motivate President Obama and congress to fix the significant points of waste in the healthcare system. Consumers have the power to vote.

I do not believe that President Obama has an interest in repairing the healthcare system. All of his actions signify that he wants the healthcare system to fail. After it fails people will beg the government to completely take over and have a single party payer.

Does anyone trust the government to take over our most valuable asset, our healthcare?

The government take over will also fail because dependent consumers will figure out how to game the system just as food stamp recipient have figured out how to game that inefficient system.

The goal of a sincere administration and congress is to figure out how to motivate consumers to be “PROSUMERS” (productive consumer) with an economic interest in the healthcare system.

Airlines, banks, bookstores, entertainment venues have all figured it out. Why can’t the government help consumers figure it out?

My blog entitled “My Ideal Medical Saving Account Is Democratic” presents a consumer driven healthcare formula. It gives every socioeconomic group the opportunity to be an effective “Prosumer”.

It gives all Prosumers the incentive to be responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

Below is the blog My Ideal Medical Savings Account Is Democratic!

My Ideal Medical Savings Account Is Democratic!

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

A reader sent this comment; “My Ideal Medical Savings Account (MSA) “was not democratic and leads to restriction of medical care for the less fortunate.'

This comment is totally incorrect. I suspect the comment came from a person who has “an entitlements are good mentality.”

I believe that incentives are good. They lead to innovation. Innovation leads to better ideas.

Healthcare entitlement leads to ever increasing costs, stagnation, restrict freedom of choice and decrease in access to care.

The excellent example of increasing costs, decreasing choice, and decreasing access to care is Medicaid.

The fact that someone is covered by healthcare coverage does not mean they have access to medical care.

 I have written extensively about the virtues of My Ideal Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). They are different than Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

HSAs put money not spent in a trust for future healthcare expenses. MSAs take the money out of play for healthcare expenses. MSAs provide a trust fund for the consumer’s retirement.

MSAs provide added incentives over HSAs to obtain and maintain good health.  Obesity is a major factor in the onset of chronic diseases. Consumers must be motivated to avoid obesity to maintain good health. MSAs can provide that incentive.

The MSA’s can replace every form of health insurance at a reduced cost. It limits the risk to the healthcare insurance industry while providing consumers with choice.

This would result in competition among healthcare providers. Competition would bring down the cost of healthcare.

Some people might not like MSA’s because they are liberating. They provide consumers of healthcare with freedom of choice. They also give consumers the opportunity to be responsible for their healthcare dollars while providing them with incentives to take care of their health.

MSAs could be used for private insurance purchasers, group insurance plans, employer self- insurance plans, State Funded self-insurance plans and Medicare and Medicaid.

In each case the funding source is different. The cost of the high deductible insurance is low because the risk is low. 

If it were a $6,000 deductible MSA, the first $6,000 would be placed in a trust for the consumer. Whatever they did not spend would go into a retirement trust.  If they spent over $6,000 they would receive first dollar healthcare insurance coverage. Their trust would obviously receive no money that year.

The incentive would be for consumers to take care of their health so they do not get sick and end up in an expensive emergency room.

If a person had a chronic illness such as asthma, Diabetes Mellitus, or heart disease with a tendency to congestive heart failure and ended up in the emergency room they would use up their $6,000.

If they took care of themselves by spending $3,000 of their $6,000 trust their funding source could afford to give their trust a $1500 reward. The benefit to the funding source is it saved money by the consumer not being admitted to the hospital. The patient stayed healthy and was more productive.

President Obama does not want to try this out. He wants consumers and businesses to be dependent of the central government for everything.

MSAs would lead to consumer independence from central government control of our healthcare. MSAs would put all consumers at whatever socioeconomic level in charge of their own destiny.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone

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Republicans who really want to repair the healthcare system should take notice of these suggestions. They should stop proposing complicated alternatives to Obamacare that will not work.

Republicans should start trying to understand the real problems in the healthcare system.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” is, mine and mine alone

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A Bogus Attack For A Political End

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE

The New York Times continues to be a mouthpiece for the Obama administration. I suspect the editorial board thinks the only thing that will save the healthcare system in America is a government controlled single payer system.

This is President Obama’s goal even if he has to destroy the medical care system.

On September 20th, 2014 the front page top right hand column article in the Sunday New York Times was  After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know appeared.

In the past the New York Times reserved this spot for the most important story of the day.

This story was the most important news story on Sunday September 200h 2014. The Times thought it was more important than a story about the economy, ISIS, the mid-term elections, Israel, Hamas or Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

The story intended to inflame the New York Times’ readers so they would be angry at the medical profession.

The problem is that the story is peppered with misinformation and disinformation.

The New York Times writer used a typical Saul Alinsky tactic. Her goal was to prevent the opponents of the story from responding intelligently. 

Public opinion will be on her side because the New York Times is supposed to be a credible source.

Saul Alinsky’s rules instruct one to lie if necessary. The next step is to frighten consumers into thinking the system under attack cannot work.

Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms.”

Peter Drier did not read or modify the consent forms. He should have made the   hospital and his doctor liable for any unauthorized expenses, providers, or events.

Peter Drier is a bank technology manager. Banks have their own small fine print intended to keep consumers liable and uniformed.

Peter Drier should have modified the consent forms before he signed them. He can refuse to authorize treatment or payment to any provider or procedure performed in the hospital that was outside of his insurance network.

In Network providers have to agree to accept the negotiated fee. If they need an additional provider it must be a provider that will accept the negotiated fee of his insurance company.

A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.

Every consumer should find out if their providers are in their insurance network .  

All of those prices are ridiculous retail prices. The real question is how much did his insurance company pay and how much is he liable for.

Peter Drier did not do a very good job in researching his insurance company’s coverage. A third party payer would never approve a $56,000 payment to the hospital for the proposed procedure.

Hospitals bill very high retail prices. They will negotiate a price that is 50-90

5 lower than the retail fee.

 

The author, ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, has a list of recent articles criticizing the healthcare system about exorbitant retail pricing. 

  • COLONOSCOPY: Colonoscopies Explain Why U.S. Leads the World in Health Expenditures
  • PREGNANCY: American Way Of Birth, Costliest In The World
  • JOINT REPLACEMENT: In Need Of A New Hip, But Priced Out of the US Market
  • HOSPITAL PRICES SOAR: A Stitch Tops $5000

All of these articles criticize the retail price providers charge. They do not tell the reader what the providers receive as reimbursement by the government or the healthcare insurance company.

Consumers are the victims of the constant effort to try to reduce healthcare costs and stick consumers with the bill.

Obamacare has driven the healthcare insurance industry to raise premiums and decrease coverage in order to cover their supposed actuarial risk.

The decreased reimbursement by the healthcare insurance industry has driven providers to increase their fees for service. The hope is to occasionally catch a consumer who is uninsured and liable for the fee.

The uninsured consumer cannot afford the fee and therefore will not pay the fee. The provider then has to sue the consumer to collect whatever they can. The cost of the suit is not profitable for the provider. He usually writes off a loss.

President Obama and the government control advocates will use the resulting chaos in the marketplace to prove that a free market for healthcare system does not work. Therefore the country needs a government controlled single party payer system.

The problem with these horror articles is they frighten consumers. They do not address the reason that the healthcare industry costs $2.7 trillion dollars a year.  

The chaos in the marketplace is the result of the government (Obamacare) involvement into the free market system.

I am also not sure if the $2.7 trillion dollars is from retail charges or negotiated payments. The answer to the question is totally opaque.

The reasons for the increasing costs are many.

Americans are becoming less healthy because they are not being responsible for their health. It is hard to maintain weight when almost every restaurants main dish is higher than their daily caloric allotment. 

470 cal 9 24 2014

1200 cal 9 24 2014 jpg

The result is an obesity epidemic. Over 50% of Americans are Obese.

Obese individuals have a 40% increased incidence of chronic disease.

Eighty percent of the healthcare dollars spent are spent on treating chronic diseases and the complications of those chronic diseases.  

Controlling a chronic diseases can decrease the complication rate of those diseases by at least 50%.  

If we ran the numbers we could reduce the healthcare costs below one trillion dollars a year.

Everyone complains about the grotesque profits the healthcare insurance companies make. Everyone understands the profits result from the inflated bureaucracies and double payments made to segments of the bureaucracy.

If one insurance company wanted to be competitive it would lower its premiums and overhead. All the other insurance companies would do the same to stay competitive.

One has only to look at the cell phone industry. Not only has the cost of the cell phones been lowered but monthly charges are continually decreasing.

One should also look at what ITunes did to the music industry.

Look at what Dr. Keith Smith’s surgical center model is doing to the local hospitals’ costs for surgery in Oklahoma City. They are falling precipitously.

The government should stop feeding the public disinformation leading to confusion of the facts..

President Obama's goal is to destroy the medical system so that consumers will believe the only thing that will work is a government controlled single party system.

Single payer systems throughout the world have proven to be unsustainable.

The healthcare system is dysfunctional. Medical care has been distorted at the consumers’ expense and for the profit of the profit of the healthcare industry.

America has to become innovative and build a healthcare system to the advantage of the consumer.

The solution 

 Is about consumers becoming aware.

 Is about leadership.

 Is about innovation.

 Is about consumers being responsible for their health and their healthcare dollars.    

  The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.  



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