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How Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Diamond Can Disrupt The Healthcare System

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP,MACE

Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Diamond should try this disruptive approach in their venture into healthcare reform.

All the other approaches that have been tried have not worked or have become unsustainable. Most of the approaches have been unfair to consumers and the majority of taxpaying Americans.

The only way to empower all the consumers in a healthcare system is to encourage them to become responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

I believe it can only be accomplished by providing easily understandable financial incentives for consumers to save money for themselves.

Providing financial incentives to consumers to save money for themselves can be disruptive to the present models used to pay for medical services just as Amazon has been disruptive to retail sales.

The delivery of medical and surgical care has advanced tremendously in the last sixty years.

At the same time medical care has become unaffordable and the cost of healthcare has become unsustainable.

The incidence of obesity has risen every year. Over fifty percent of Americans are obese.

Obesity begets many chronic diseases and subsequently the complications of these diseases.

Physicians can treat these complications fairly well. However the treatment of chronic disease complications are costly.

How do you decrease the incidence of obesity in America?

Physicians must attack the core causes of obesity.

Among those causes are excess food intake, lack of daily exercise, mental depression, cultural milieu and/or a combination of all of the above.

The cure of obesity depends on the ability to eliminate these core drivers. Financial incentives can get patients involved in eliminating the core drivers of obesity.

The responsibility for obese patients’ healthcare depends on patients’ lifestyle, popular cultural milieu, and patient education.

In America, it is almost impossible to buy a meal in any level restaurant without excess calories.

How do you get people to be responsible for their health and healthcare dollars?

The one key element ignored by policy makers to decrease obesity is to give obese consumers of healthcare financial incentives to concentrate on trying to lose weight.

Obamacare went in the wrong direction. It limits personal liability for their obesity. It does not promote personal responsibility

The only incentive Obamacare provided was the incentive to overuse the healthcare system.

This was especially true for patients on Medicaid. They had zero premiums and deductibles. The only deterrent to accessing medical care was physician availability.

Physicians refused to participate in Medicaid because of low professional reimbursement. Low reimbursement by the government was necessary because of the decreases in funding and participant overuse of the system.

Obamacare planned to cure the shortage of “medical providers” by increasing the number of “valid medical providers” who could bill on their own, such as nurse practitioners and certified physician assistants.

However, the defect there is that patients were not under the supervision of physicians engaged in their care. It ignores the patient physician relationship that is so important to effective medical care.

If Jeff Bezo, Warren Buffet and Jamie Diamond (BBD group) are serious about Repairing the Healthcare System for their employees as a nonprofit organization, they should consider my Ideal Medical Savings Account.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=My+Ideal+Medical+Savings+Account

The Ideal Medical Savings Accounts (MSA) are tax-sheltered accounts used to pay for non-catastrophic medical expenses. These non catastrophic medical expenses account for the bulk of the cost of medical care.

Money left from the Medical Savings Account at the end of the year is put into a consumer’s retirement account.

The MSA provides the financial incentive to not overuse the healthcare system.

Warren Buffet understands the money making potential of re-insurance. He is heavily invested in re-insurance companies.

If one of the BBD Groups employee’s gets sick and spends of all of his MSA money, reinsurance provides first dollar coverage for the illness.

The BBD Group could teach employees how to shop for price and value. Insurance companies are supposed to shop for value. However the shopping is never to the patient’s advantage. It is to the advantage of the insurance company.

 Critics always claim this is unrealistic:

  1. The claim is that patients are not smart enough to shop for price and value. 2. Are you supposed to shop around from the back of the ambulance?

 The critics’ use the ambulance argument to eliminate the possibility of consumers using their own judgment to make price decisions.

Patients are smart enough to figure out which hospital they want to go to before they get into the ambulance.

Emergency care represents only 6% of health care expenditures.

But emergency care represents only 6% of health expenditures.”

“For privately insured adults under 65, almost 60% of spending is on elective outpatient care. “

ttps://www.wsj.com/articles/the-health-reform-that-hasnt-been-tried-1507071808

The critics argument is that consumers do not know how to shop prices. Consumers are smarter than the critics think. It would be easy to teach consumers to shop prices.”

ttp://stanfeld.com/the-failure-of-the-republican-establishment-to-repeal-and-replace-obamacare/

“My Ideal Medical Saving Account provides that financial incentive to not overuse the healthcare system. All the articles about my ideal medical saving accounts are attached to this link.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=My+ideal+Medical+Savings+Accounts

 Likewise, nearly 60% of Medicaid money goes to outpatient care.”

 Medicaid patients also overuse the healthcare system.

Most Medicaid patients can understand the MSA’s financial incentive.

“ For the top 1% of spenders—a group responsible for more than a quarter of all health expenditures—a full 45% is outpatient.”

These patients can be identified as outliers and educational vehicles can be created to decrease this overuse of the system. It would save the re-insurance company a great deal of money.

In my opinion Medical Savings Account are better than Health Savings Accounts. Medical Savings Accounts take the money out of the healthcare insurance company’s hands and deliver it to consumers retirement accounts.

Both HSA’s and MSAs have the unique advantage of providing the financial incentive to for consumers to save money for themselves.

When people have savings to protect in HSAs, the cost of care drops without harmful effects on health. 

 The financial incentives decrease the overuse of the healthcare system.

According to a 2012 study in Health Affairs if even half of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance enrolled in this kind of coverage, U.S. health expenditures would fall by an estimated $57 billion a year.”

 https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20160204.950878/full/

 My ideal Medical Savings Accounts provide an even a greater financial incentive and should decrease costs even further.

“ MSAs should be available to all Americans, including seniors on Medicare. Given that seniors use the most health care, motivating them to seek value is crucial to driving prices lower.”

MSAs should also apply to Medicaid recipients. The details for Medicaid recipients can be found in my article “My Ideal Medical Savings Accounts Is Democratic. “

The maximum contribution to MSAs should be raised to $6000 or $7000 dollars. If a consumer gets sick and experiences a cost of more that $6000 he should receive 100% (first dollar) coverage through the BBD group’s provided reinsurance policy. A reinsurance policy would cost the BBD Group less than $6000 a year.

The total insurance package to BBG Group employees should cost the BBD Group $12,000 rather than the present cost of $18,000.

BBD is a self insured association. The association has elimated the multiple middlemen in the present healthcare system.

 When a person with an MSA dies, the funds should be allowed to roll over tax-free to surviving family members.

This financial incentive should be included in My Ideal Medical Savings Account.

“The information that patients require to assess value must be made more transparent. 

2014 study on magnetic resonance imaging showed that price-transparency programs reduced costs by 18.7%.”

A consumer driven system would force providers to compete for patients. Information on price could easily be provided to consumers by the government and the healthcare insurance industry.

At present healthcare prices are not transparent. Consumers are not motivated to shop prices. The BBD Groups leverage with its employees would force transparency.

“The most compelling motivation for doctors and hospitals to post rates would be knowing that they are competing for price-conscious patients empowered with control of their own money.”

 In this age of technology and rapid communication telemedicine should be promoted and paid for. One way to do it is to permit physicians to practice telemedicine across state lines. It would supply instant access to expertize at an affordable cost.

Everything possible should be done to encourage consumer responsibility and provider competition.

The present tax code does the opposite. Consumers in-group plans provided by large and small corporations receive their healthcare insurance from the corporation with tax-free dollars.

The larger the corporation the more leverage the corporation has for negotiating the premiums with the healthcare insurance companies.

The BBD Groups volume of consumers would have tremendous leverage with providers.

The younger and healthier the corporate employees are the lower the premiums.

The formation of associations with large memberships of all ages would lower the cost of healthcare. Large associations would have great leverage in negotiating price with providers. They would also spread the risk.

Self- insured associations such as the BBD Group would also spread the risk and lower the cost.

Tax deductibility must be given to these “individual” insurance policy holders and association policy holders so they are, in reality, paying for healthcare insurance with pre-tax dollars the same as the corporate group plan policy holders.

These simple changes in the law would result in an affordable healthcare system that was market driven by consumers. The changes would force providers and the healthcare insurance industry to become competitive.

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

 All Rights Reserved © 2006 – 2018 “Repairing The Healthcare System” Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

 

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The Healthcare System Needs Disruption

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

The announcement that Amazon.com, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway are forming a non-profit company to try to improve the American healthcare system caused some ripples in the stock market.

The mere specter of its disruptive potential was enough to send some investors scurrying away from large payer providers like UnitedHealth, Aetna and Humana.

The reason for the panic is obvious. These large insurance companies have been ripping off the healthcare system for decades. They have had their fortunes improved with Obamacare and its regulations. They are afraid they are going to lose their stronghold.

The three innovations, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and Jamie Diamond are disruptors that might destroy UnitedHealth, Aetna, and Humana’s kingdom.

Mitch McConnell has supposedly taken Repeal of Obamacare off the agenda for 2018.

I believe Mitch McConnell doesn’t know what to do about Obamacare. He is hoping that it fails on its own. He has passed the budget that will force the government to cover the tremendous financial short falls the defectives in the structure of Obamacare is going to precipitate.

Only then will the public hear about Obamacare’s effect on America’s budget deficit.

The American taxpayer will be force to continue to fund this failed program.

Obamacare has failed because of its structure. It encourages over use of the healthcare system by sick people. It does not encourage consumers to be responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

The Democrats and the Republican establishment have failed the American consumer again.

Bravo to three of America’s premier disruptors Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and Jamie Diamond.

If they bother to understand the elements of medical care and the reasons for the healthcare systems dysfunction they have a chance for success.

If they follow the previous attempts to repair the healthcare system by the government, healthcare insurance industry and hospital systems they will fail miserably just as these other institutions have failed.

“The industry certainly offers plenty of opportunities for reinvention, of course. Healthcare in the United States is expensive, and its quality varies wildly.” says Christopher Rowe, managing director at Korn Ferry.

Jeff Bezos has the best shot at reducing drug price significantly. The government cannot negotiate prices. The private carriers through drug benefit plans do a little better.

The military and the VA system do 30 to 75% better than Medicare Part D and the private sector.

Jeff Bezos knows how to market via the Internet. With the large cadre of consumer employees of Jeff Bezos Warren Buffet and Jamie Diamond, Mr. Bezos can probably negotiate the drug prices down by at least 50%. I’ll bet he can negotiate drug prices almost as low as the VA system and also provide the pharmaceutical companies an increase in reimbursement for their drugs.

Mr. Bezos usually eliminates most of the middlemen. He will be able to offer the medication at a 40 or 50% lower price than Medicare Part D and the private benefit managers and still make a sizable profit while providing a better quality of service.

He knows the customer is the consumer.

When it comes to the delivery of medical care and the use of technology in the delivery of medical care, I am not sure Bezos, Buffet and Diamond know who the real customers are.

I am not sure they know how to get around the stronghold the healthcare insurance industry, the federal government and the hospital systems have over the control of healthcare.

Many other corporations have tried to break the stronghold and have failed.

I will try to tell Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and Jamie Diamond what they have to do in my next blog.

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

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It Is Getting Worse

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

Charles Gabe’s graph of enrollment as of 12/9/2017 was published with only six days of open enrollment left.

There are only 5,894,342 confirmed enrollees. There is no indication of how many enrollees paid the first month’s premium. The low-ball estimate was 7.2 million.

Of those enrolled only 3,604,44 were enrolled in President Obama’s Health Insurance Exchanges to buy healthcare insurance.

2,289,902 were enrolled in Medicaid. The number of illegal immigrants in that number is unknown.

December 15th is the deadline for enrollment in 42 states. Eight states have already extended the deadline.

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This is an extremely disappointing outcome for Democrats who refuse to believe Obamacare has failed. Last year the Democrats and President Obama were bragging that Obamacare provided healthcare insurance for 20 million people.

The problem was that 13 million of those 20 million were enrolled in Medicaid and of the 9 million who bought insurance through the health insurance exchange many did not complete their premium payment for the whole year.

The government subsidized eighty-five percent of those people who bought healthcare insurance through the health insurance exchanges.

Organized medicine has not provided leadership for the medical and surgical community or its patients.

In turn medical professional feel powerless. I believe the profession is about to give up on trying to influence positive change in the healthcare system for its benefit and its patients benefit.

A reader, D.F. M.D., responded to my last blog writing;

“That nothing much is happening in Washington re: healthcare reform may be one of the largest blessings our country has seen this year.”

It might be a blessing because the politicians do not have a clue as to what can be done to repair the healthcare system.

Politicians are not interested in listening to physicians or patients. The people that stand to lose the most in this dilemma are patients.

D.F., M.D. goes on,

 “ We are agreed that our congress hasn’t done much, but there are other activities afoot that will almost certainly be game changers and they are largely un-noticed when it comes to their impact on healthcare services.”

his is very true. When President Trump was running for president he kept declaring that the “government” made the worse deals for the American people with NAFTA, Iran nuclear deal, and the pacific trade deal. He essentially called President Obama and congress stupid.

Now congress is asking big business to help them out of the healthcare mess. The pending take over of medicine by big business is going to destroy medical care in America while they are claiming to save the healthcare system.

D.F. MD writes

“The CVS/Aetna merger, and today’s announcement that United Healthcare is buying DaVita, a healthcare group with over 300 sites of service to add to it’s Optum, segment, with 1,100 care sites of various sorts, not to mention US Oncology, owned by McKesson, that sees about 14-15% of patients with cancer in the US.”

The corporate take over of medical care is growing daily. Without physicians and patients there would not be a need for a healthcare system. Physicians have voluntarily given up their intellectual property and freedom to use their own clinical judgment to the will of corporations.

America is in the early stages of this phenomenon. Medical care is becoming a commodity. Physicians and patients have given up the thought of a personal relationship embodied in the physician patient relationship. Good medical care (in my opinion) is predicated on the patient physician relationship because much morbidity and negative emotional responses to treatment can vanish with an effective patient physician relationship.

Truly, corporate medicine, once outlawed in many states, (for good reason) is on track to become the biggest player in healthcare.  Add to that the report that 60% of physicians are now employed by hospitals, which is in some ways creating a body of spokespersons for healthcare that has not been seen before.”

The result is massive Medicare and Medicaid cost overruns that are not approved by congress. The Democrats are trying hard to blame the costs overruns and Obamacare’s failure on President Trump without good reason.

However, the media is the message and the media is on President Obama and the Democrats side.

D.F., MD continues,

“I have always believed that the medical profession though organized medicine has been remiss by maintaining a low profile where change is concerned, either in the development of programs or the creation and passing of legislation.”

Edward Annis M.D. a former president of the AMA was organized medicine leaders who lead the fight to outlaw corporate take over of the healthcare system and the takeover of medical practice. Dr. Annis wrote an excellent book called Code Blue in 1993.

A reviewer,  Frank J. Primich M.D. in 1994 wrote;

“Code Blue takes its name from the most common term used by hospital public address systems to signify cardiac arrest.

The announcement sends an assortment of specially trained personnel scurrying to the designated site. Modern techniques and technology, when given the timely opportunity, have been highly successful in restoring life.”

“The protagonist in Dr. Annis’s book is the private practice of medicine, which has been declared dead by some of its adversaries. Resuscitation requires an understanding of what has gone wrong, and what can be done about it.”

Dr. Annis was right on target. No one involved in organized medicine has taken this stand presently.

The reviewer goes on;

“In every field, there is an internal rating system. Ed Annis is the acknowledged superstar of those of us who have pleaded the cause of fee-for-service medical practice and maintenance of the traditional doctor-patient relationship.”

All of the healthcare policy wonks and congress people ignore the importance of the physician patient relationship. When they get sick and do not have a patient physician relationship they yearn for one.

“The same time span has seen a steady encroachment into the process from a variety of third parties, particularly government.”

“The concept of socialized medicine, discredited elsewhere in the world, has been introduced, through gradualism, to the point where we are now, in effect, semi- socialized. The current proposals for national health care threaten to push us beyond the point of no return.”

These quotes were taken from the article written in 1994 at the peak of the Hillary-care debate. Wilbur Mills started the socialized medicine debate in America in 1935.

D.F. MD note goes on to say,

“Now they are increasingly tied to large business entities one sort or another.”

 Soon, advocates for patients with no financial axe to grind may end up being only us old retired docs, some of whom have retired because of “improvements” like the electronic medical records which have managed to make their developers rich while not doing all that much to enhance patient care. Unfortunately the old docs lack organization, money, and voice.”

Organized medicine has not provided leadership to help patients understand that when large corporations take over the infrastructure of medicine medical care will be totally commoditized and the important physician patient relationship will be lost forever.

 “Then there are the CBO projections https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53090 which are sometimes wide of the mark, but which the liberal media trumpet as the gospel in projecting the effect on patient care is certain healthcare reforms are enacted and implemented.”

 “The result of all that is that almost anything that is proffered as change is shouted down by one interest group or another, often by people who don’t have much of a clue re: what they are protesting about.”

DF, MD

The only thing that can turn this trend around is patients and a consumer driven healthcare system along with some organized medicine leadership.

   

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

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Consumers Need To Take Back Their Medical Care And Healthcare Dollars

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

A consumer driven healthcare system is the solution to the dysfunctional and unaffordable healthcare system that americans are presently experiencing.

President Trump wants to create the conditions for consumers to take responsibility for their medical care and their healthcare dollars.

The negative noise in the mainstream media should be ignored.

The Obamacare health insurance exchanges have failed. The Democrats and establishment Republicans should realize that the health insurance exchange plan was a defective system that it can not be repaired with patches and more money.

President Trump has signed an executive order to permit private associations to sell insurance. There are many associations that a person could belong too. Consumers could shop for the right association at the right price.

Democrats are behaving as if associations are a foreign enemy.

UnitedHealth has contracted with AARP (an association) to sell Medicare supplemental insurance. UnitedHealth sells this insurance across state lines.

USAA has contracted with Humana to sell Medicare supplemental insurance and Medicare Drug coverage.

There are many supplemental plans that consumers can choose from in these associations. These plans are sold across state lines and are competitive.

The government has to change the tax law to treat individual healthcare insurance plans bought through the associations to be paid for with pre-tax dollars just as the employer sponsored group plans do.

However, associations selling healthcare insurance are only the first step in empowering consumers.

A well-known retired physician (DEF M.D.) sent me his view on what consumers need to be aware of to survive any healthcare system. He calls it

“My Three Rules For Survival”

Remember my three rules for survival:

1) Stay the hell away from doctors.

They always either want to do something or prescribe something, and all too frequently do both.

A large part of this physician reflex is their need to practive defensive medicine. Physicians are afraid they might miss something and get sued.

Major tort reform is necessary in most states. Defensive medicine accounts for $250 billion to $700 billion dollars in unnecessary expenses each year.

I have outlined the steps necessary to remedy the malpractice (tort) crisis and its resulting overuse of testing and medication.

If anyone in President Trump’s administration wants to review the issue in full click on this link.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=Tort+reform

Nobody confronts the reality you mentioned , people are too fat, they drink too much and smoke, AND they don’t even think about the importance of, and benefits from, exercise.

 I started a war on obesity many years ago. Public officials and poly wonks have ignored my suggestions.

It would be worthwhile to read my post about obesity.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=war+on+obesity

The cost to all of us (including them) of all this denial of personal responsibility is huge!  We need to find ways to get people to focus on taking care of themselves, or to create cost incentives that will encourage them to do so.

While you are in this reading mood you should check out my pleas for the importance of patient responsibility.

ttp://stanfeld.com/?s=patient+responsibility

We simply cannot continue on the path we are on. I don’t recall ever seeing a patient on a “scooter”, and many in wheelchairs that are obese, and only getting fatter and fatter over time.

     2) Take as little medicine as you can.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are continuing to drive up the cost of their products and are making enormous profits as a result.  Data is available re: the necessity of people getting medicines that they don’t really need, especially if taken long term on an ongoing basis.

To that, one can add the cost of unnecessary procedures that often leave patients worse off than they were before.  Direct to the public advertising of prescription medications creates demand that is often unaccompanied by benefit.

More and more current information regarding side effects and late effects of medications need to be provided, and not just put into the “fine print” on the package stuffers.

     3) Stay out of hospitals.

 They are dangerous places, with a high prevalence of patient injuries and deaths due to various sorts of medical errors that occur all too frequently, despite a host of quality improvement projects that are well-intended, but would be better in terms of effectiveness if they were made public on a regular basis.

 Scott Atlas makes good arguments for encouraging patients to “price shop” for services they must have.  To that information should be appended information about outcomes of what is proposed, which could, over time, become both hospital-specific and physician-specific.

I have expanded on Scott Atlas’ Wall Street Journal article in my last blog.

http://stanfeld.com/the-plan-to-empower-consumers-of-healthcare/

Most doctors and most hospitals have not much of a clue as to the outcomes of the services they provide their patients.

And, that is probably plenty for today.  DEF”

Consumers need to be educated to become aware of the many pitfalls involved in their new responsibility.

The educational process can be accomplished with online information and chat sessions. The government could provide the education necessary.

Consumers also need financial incentives to be encouraged to be responsible for their care and their healthcare dollars

This can be accomplished with my ideal medical saving accounts.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=ideal+medical+savings+accounts

Then and only then can we have a consumer driven healthcare system that will lower the cost of healthcare.

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

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

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The Plan To Empower Consumers Of Healthcare

 Stanley Feld M.D., FACP,MACE

The only way to empower consumers of healthcare is to allow them be responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

The delivery of medical and surgical care has progressed markedly in the last sixty years. Life expectancy has also increased.

At the same time medical care has become unaffordable and the cost of healthcare has become unsustainable.

The incidence of obesity has risen every year. Over fifty percent of Americans are obese. The percentage is rising yearly.

Obesity begets many chronic diseases and subsequently the complications of these diseases.

Physicians can treat these complications fairly well but the treatment of these complications comes at a high cost.

How do you decrease obesity in America?

How do you get people to be responsible for their health and healthcare dollars?

One of the key elements in decreasing obesity is to give consumers financial incentives to use the healthcare system efficiently.

ObamaCare went in the wrong direction. Its regulations—including required “essential benefits”—raised prices on these plans and limited their availability.”

The only incentive Obamacare provided was the incentive to overuse the system. This was especially true for patients on Medicaid. They had zero premiums and deductibles.

A second tool for motivating patients to consider price is large liberalized health savings accounts. These tax-sheltered accounts are generally used to pay for the noncatastrophic expenses that form the bulk of medical care.

First, equip consumers to consider prices.”

 Critics always claim this is unrealistic: Are you supposed to shop around from the back of the ambulance?

 The critics use the ambulance excuse argument to eliminate the possibility of consumers using their own judgment to make price decisions.

But emergency care represents only 6% of health expenditures.”

“For privately insured adults under 65, almost 60% of spending is on elective outpatient care. “

The critics argument is that consumers do not know how to shop prices. Consumers are smarter than the critics think. It would be easy to teach consumers to shop prices.”

http://stanfeld.com/the-failure-of-the-republican-establishment-to-repeal-and-replace-obamacare/

“My ideal medical saving account provides that financial incentive to not overuse the healthcare system. The many articles about my ideal medical saving accounts are attached to this link.

Likewise, nearly 60% of Medicaid money goes to outpatient care.”

 Medicaid patients also overuse the healthcare system.

“ For the top 1% of spenders—a group responsible for more than a quarter of all health expenditures—a full 45% is outpatient.”

These patients can be identified as outliers and educational vehicles can be created to decrease this overuse of the system.

In my opinion Medical Savings Account are better than Health Savings Accounts. Medical Savings Accounts take the money out of the healthcare insurance company’s hands and delivers it to consumers.

Both HSA’s and MSAs have the unique advantage of providing and financial incentive to save.

When people have savings to protect in HSAs, the cost of care drops without harmful effects on health. 

 The financial incentive decreases the overuse of the healthcare system.

“ According to a 2012 study in Health Affairs if even half of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance enrolled in this kind of coverage, U.S. health expenditures would fall by an estimated $57 billion a year.”

My ideal Medical Savings Accounts provide an even a greater financial incentive and should decrease costs even further.

“ HSAs should be available to all Americans, including seniors on Medicare. Given that seniors use the most health care, motivating them to seek value is crucial to driving prices lower.”

Scott Atlas has publicized the obvious. This would apply to Medicaid recipient also. The details for Medicaid recipients can be found in my article “My Ideal Medical Savings Accounts Is Democratic. “

The maximum contribution to a MSAs should be raised to $6000 or $7000 dollars. If a consumer get sick and experiences a cost of $6000 he should receive 100% (first dollar) coverage through a reinsurance policy that would cost less than $6000.

There can be many variations on this theme for the consumers benefit.

 When a person with an HSA dies, the funds should be allowed to roll over tax-free to surviving family members.  

This financial incentive should be added to My ideal Medical Savings Account.

“The information that patients require to assess value must be made radically more visible. A 2014 study on magnetic resonance imaging showed that price-transparency programs reduced costs by 18.7%.”

A consumer driven system would force providers to compete for patients. Information on price could easily be provided to consumers by the government and the healthcare insurance industry.

“The most compelling motivation for doctors and hospitals to post rates would be knowing that they are competing for price-conscious patients empowered with control of their own money.”

 In his age of technology and rapid communication telemedicine should be promoted and paid for. One way to do it is to permit physicians to practice telemedicine across state lines.

It would supply instant access to expertize at an affordable cost.

Everything possible should be done to encourage consumer responsibility and provider competition.

The present tax code does the opposite. Consumers’ in-group plans provided by large and small corporations receive their healthcare insurance from the corporation with tax-free dollars.

The larger the corporation the more leverage the corporation has for negotiating the premiums with the healthcare insurance companies.

The younger and healthier the corporate employees are the lower the premiums.

This is where the formation of associations with larger memberships of all ages fits in to lowering the price of healthcare. Large associations would have great leverage in negotiating price with insurance companies. They would also spread the risk.

If financial incentive with my ideal medical saving account was added to the price the association negotiated and the consumer paid for the premium, usage would fall and the cost of insurance would decrease.

Tax deductibility must be given to these “individual” insurance policy holders and association policy holders so they are, in reality, paying for healthcare insurance with pre-tax dollars as the corporate group plan policy holders.

These simple changes in the law would result in an affordable healthcare system that was market driven by consumers. The changes would force providers and the healthcare insurance industry to become competitive.

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

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

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The Failure Of The Republican Establishment To Repeal and Replace Obamacare

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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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Let The Buyer Beware: Medicare Part D

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

The mystery of buying drugs under Medicare Part D increases each year. The plans offered become more costly and complicated. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicare_Part_D

Medicare did not cover outpatient prescription drugs until January 1, 2006, when it implemented the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.

Congress authorized Medicare Part D with the heading the “Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.”

Private insurance companies administer Medicare Part D plans for the government. The government is not allowed to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies.

The VA healthcare system negotiates prices with the pharmaceutical companies. The prices are at least 60% lower than the Part D prices.

Multiple plans are offered with increasing premium prices and deductibles each year.

The increases in deductibles are significant. Below are the increases between 2016 and 2017. Most seniors do not pay attention to the increase in premiums, deductibles or coverage because they automatically enroll each year.

They become aware of the changes changes when they go to pay for their medication

Initial Deductible:
will be increased by $40 to $400 in 2017.

Initial Coverage Limit:
will increase from $3,310 in 2016 to $3,700 in 2017.

Out-of-Pocket Threshold:
will increase from $4,850 in 2016 to $4,950 in 2017.

Coverage Gap (donut hole):
begins once you reach your Medicare Part D plan’s initial coverage limit ($3,700 in 2017) and ends when you spend a total of $4,950 in 2017.


In 2017, Part D enrollees will receive a 60% discount on the total retail cost of their brand-name drugs purchased while in the donut hole.

Generally, not all drugs are covered at the same out of pocket cost to the beneficiary. This gives participants incentives to choose certain drugs over others. This is most often implemented—as is the case for drug coverage for those not on Medicare—through incentives to use generic drugs over brand-name drugs.

The incentive is also often implemented via a system of tiered formularies in which some brand-name drugs are less expensive than others and not subject to step therapy.

Generic drugs are less expensive than brand named drugs. Patients learned this quickly. They encouraged their physicians to provide them with a prescription for generic drugs.

When patients buy drugs with Medicare Part D the deductible price is the patients’ cash outlay. However, the Medicare Part D plan charges patients the total retail price of the drug against their donut.

For example if a 90 day supply of a generic drug is $10 and the retail price is $60 dollars, the $60 is charged against the patient’s donut to be added to future purchases.

If patients paid $10 cash already shouldn’t only $50 of the $60 be charged against the donut?

Many generics can be purchased for a cash price or using a discount drug card coupon for $10 without using Medicare Part D and incurring the $60 retail charge against a donut.

Many generics can be purchased for less using a discount drug card coupon than the cash price a senior on Medicare Part D has to pay using Medicare Part D insurance.

It is not uncommon for senior patients to reach their donut in less than a year. At that time those senior patients have to pay 100% (60% in 2017) of the retail price for a drug until they reach $4,950.

The amount is an additional cash price of $1,250.

It was difficult to figure this out before discount drug cards became available.

How do these discount drugs card work and the discount drug card companies make money?

The Middle Men are:

“1.    Cardholder – the consumer

  1. Pharmacy – the retail outlet in which the purchase is made
  2. Pharmaceutical Company – the manufacturer of the medication
  3. Adjudicator – the organization that negotiates the discounts with the drug makers
  4. Card Marketer – the organization whose brand is on the card
  5. Card Marketer Affiliate – an organization that assists the Card Marketer in distribution

 Each time a card is used there is a transaction fee applied to the purchase price. 

 That fee is split 3 or 4 ways (though perhaps not evenly) between the Pharmacy, the Adjudicator, the Card Marketer and their Affiliate.

This transaction fee comes at the Cardholder’s expense.

However, usually the negotiated discount cost of the medication far exceeds the transaction fee so the Cardholder still wins. 

For example, the retail price for a medication is $100. The prescription discount card has negotiated a 40% discount, so the cost would be $60 but there is a $10 transaction fee. So the Cardholder pays $70 instead of $100. Of the $10 transaction fee, the Pharmacy might take $2, the Adjudicator $2 and the Card Marketer $6.

The Card Marketer might pay out $1 to their marketing

affiliate.”

Many Medicare Part D patients have figured out how to optimize their drug cost through the use of the discount drug cards.

None of these government policy manipulations are to senior recipients of Medicare Part D advantage. They all benefit the middlemen.

A simple solution is to change the Medicare Part D law so the government can negotiate the cost of drugs just as all the middlemen in the Discounted Drug Card industry are negotiating the price of drugs to the advantage of seniors.

Sometimes the discount cards yield different discounts in different pharmacies in the same zip code.

Sometimes the pharmaceutical companies figure out how to combine two medications that are just as effective when taken separately to increase the cash price to senior patients.

These companies do it with FDA approval.

I became aware of the vast price differences recently with two commonly used drugs Dutasterile (Brand name Avodart) and Tamusulosin (Flow Max). Both drugs have been on the market long enough to be sold as generic drugs.

Using the Good RX discount card these are the variation in prices for the combination drug and the drugs sold separately in one zip code.

Dutasterilde +

Tamsulosin 90

Dutasterile 90 Tamusulosin 90
Walgreens $183.00 $183.08 $113.93
Kroger $316.98 $45.61 $30.62
CVS $388.69 $84.63 $58.62
Tom Thumb $391.85 49.85 $31.85
Albertson $391.60 $52.60 $31.85
Walmart $475.10 $398.71 $55.23
Target $388.69 $388.71 $136.41

Table 1

None of the pharmacies receive an appropriate discount for the combination of Dutasterile plus Tamulosin. Only Kroger’s negotiator received an appropriate discount for the two drugs sold separately. The total price is $76.23 for 90 pills vs. $316.98 for the combination.

However, seniors have run into a problem in shopping for the best price in a neighborhood.

The government provides a bonus to physician practices that have meaningful use electronic medical records.

One criterion for a meaningful use electronic medical record is the electronically ordering prescriptions for patients.

If a patient usually used the Wal-Mart Pharmacy that telephone number would be in the record. The physician’s prescription would automatically be sent to the Wal-Mart Pharmacy. If the physician wrote for the combination for it would cost $475.10. If the physician wrote the prescription for each medication separately in would cost the patient $453.94 as opposed to cost him $76.23 at Kroger’s.

Compounding the complexity of the electric medical records unintended consequence the pharmacist would automatically fill the combination prescription using that senior’s Medicare Part D insurance. It would be much cheaper than the cash price.

The senior would pay only $146.50 for the combination but his donut would be charged the full retail price of $475.10.

The physician’s office should be aware of the difference in price between the generic combination and the generic drugs sold separately. However, that is not the physicians job.

He should be able to give the patient a paper prescription for both the combination and separate medication so the patient would be able to shop for the best price in his zip code if he was so inclined.

Clearly Medicare Part D is a mess and needs straightening out.

The discount drug cards are not the answer on top of the rising Medicare Part D premiums.

Many retired seniors are living month to month on a pension. The Medicare Part D premiums are paid with after tax dollars not pre-tax dollars.

Many seniors simply cannot afford to pay for their medication. If they do not take their medication they will develop complications of their disease.

Medicare Part A and B will cost the government more and become more unsustainable.

A few simple fixes can solve the problems in Medicare Part D that policy makers and congressmen do not seem to be aware of.

Patients must be responsible for their medical care and their healthcare dollars.

It would be nice if the government would help a little with fixes in information and policies that work for senior patients.

In the meantime it is imperative to “Let the Patient Beware.”

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

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


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