Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE Menu

Medicine: Healthcare System

Permalink:

Politics of Electronic Medical Records

Politics of Electronic Medical Records

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

The EMR project that President Obama forced on the medical profession in 2009 has not yet produced any evidence that EMR will save the country $350 billion in inpatient care and $150 billion dollars in outpatient care over a 15 year period of time.

The RAND analysts claim that more than $350 billion would be saved on inpatient care and nearly $150 billion on outpatient care over a 15-year period of time. 

The RAND EMR study was wrong. The study sounded good to President Obama because he thought EMRs would enable the federal government to control medical and surgical practices in America.

Unfortunately, data from three other studies, a cardiology group, a Harvard group and Canadian group showed there is no savings difference between paper records and electronic records.

The project has been a $38 billion dollar failure. I predicted the EMR project would fail in 2011. EMRs are a great idea. The EMR projects goals were wrong.

Wall Street Journal article in 2012 stated,  The electronic medical record (EMR) is touted as the key to containing costs, reducing errors, improving quality, and simplifying administration: an “elegant exercise in wishful thinking.

The RAND Corporation study was paid for by all the vested interests stakeholders involved in medical care except physicians and patients.

Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, the Cerner Corporation and Epic Systems of Verona, Wis. are the major EMR software companies who paid for the study.

In February 2009, after years of behind-the-scenes lobbying by Allscripts and others, legislation to promote the use of electronic records was signed into law as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.

GE and the healthcare insurance industry were also major funders of the RAND Study. The Obama administration funded the implementation of the EMR project to the detriment of the healthcare system.

The healthcare system has not contained costs, reduced errors, improved quality or simplified administration. Each category has gotten worse.

I do not think the Obama administration’s primary interest was to fix the existing healthcare system.   If the EMR project hobbled the healthcare system, the population would beg the government to completely take over institute his “Public Option” and subsequently “Medicare for All.” There was no consideration of the fact that that Medicare and Medicaid are unsustainable.

The complete control of the VA Healthcare System has not worked out very well for the government. One important reason for the VA Healthcare System’s failure is the bloated government bureaucracy. Effective medical care takes instantaneous judgement and rapid execution. Government regulations inhibit the process leading to long waiting times and ineffective and costly treatment.

Medicare and Medicaid costs have been unsustainable and are getting worse. Why would a politician think complete government control over 20% of the GDP, the healthcare system, would be any better than a free market system where patients would take responsibility for their healthcare and healthcare dollars?

The government could provide the dollars to the needy with financial incentives attached for all in the system.

Ideal EMR should be for the benefit of physicians and their patients. The EMR should not be only for the financial benefit of healthcare insurance companies, the government,  the pharmacy benefit managers and the software companies.

The EMR project places the secondary stakeholder in the position to judge physicians’ behavior and subsequently penalize them if they do not comply with government regulations and expected results.

The EMR should be a tool to continually educate physicians to help them become better. It should educate patients so they can become professors of their disease and help them avoid the complications of their chronic diseases.

The EMR should not be a tool used by secondary stakeholders to penalize physicians and patients. This will not decrease the ever-increasing cost of healthcare.

At the moment EMRs are relatively useless. A lot of money has been spent by all the stakeholders with very limited benefit. There have been hundreds of examples published by all stakeholders about the defects in the present EMRs that do not allow for an increase in the quality of care and a decrease in the cost of care.

 My ideal EMR along with my ideal medical saving accounts can go a long way toward repairing the healthcare system. http://stanfeld.com/is_an_ideal_ele/

 

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



Copywrite 2006-2019

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

Why Vermont’s Single Party Payer Healthcare Plan Failed

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP,MACE

Vermont’s single party payer healthcare plan was doomed to fail from the onset for several reasons.

Vermont had a Republican governor for eight years. He decided to retire.  Peter Shumlin (D.) won the Democratic nomination for governor after progressive activists demanded that each candidate for the Democratic Party nomination promise to enact single-payer health care if nominated.

Shumlin’s got the nod, won the election. He was anxious to pass the single party payer system.

Vermont’s consultants were Harvard’s William Hsiao and MIT’s Jonathan Gruber.

William Hsiao has spent most of his academic career helping governments install single-payer healthcare systems.

There is little evidence that the systems by developed in Taiwan and other countries by William Hsiao have been successful. They have not been cost effective or sustainable. They have not preserved freedom of choice.

Gruber and Hsiao made the same mistakes for Vermont that they made for America with Obamacare.

Hsiao and Gruber promised that single-payer health care in Vermont could save $1.6 billion over ten years. With that endorsement in hand, Shumlin and the legislature passed Act 48, a law instructing the state to figure out how to finance a single-payer system. They dubbed it Green Mountain Care.

Governor Shumlin said, “If Vermont gets single-payer health care right, which I believe we will, other states will follow,” pronounced Shumlin. “If we screw it up, it will set back this effort for a long time. So I know we have a tremendous amount of responsibility, not only to Vermonters.”

Unfortunately, Americans have a short memory, the short memory promoted by the conformational bias of the traditional mass media toward a progressive agenda.

Progressive Americans and their progressive politicians had better wake up fast. “Medicare for All” does not work.

Medicare does not work in a financially sustainable way for the government or seniors. It was not sustainable in the Bernie Sanders small state of Vermont. It is nice to believe you can provide healthcare benefits for nothing to all. However, nothing is free especially when it is run by central bureaucrats. It has been proven over and over again.

First, bureaucrats and healthcare policy consultants do not understand the medical care system. The history of Vermont’s single- payor story is interesting.

In December 2014 Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D.) announced that he was pulling the plug after four years on Vermont’s single-payer, government-run health care system.

“In my judgment,” Governor Shumlin said, “the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families, and the state’s economy.”

Rather than saving $1.6 billion the Green Mountain Care would cost an additional 2.6 billion dollars in tax revenue for 2017 alone. The law would require a 151 percent increase in state taxes.

“Fiscally, that’s a train wreck. Even a skeptical report from Avalere health had previously assumed that the plan would “only” cost $1.9 to $2.2 billion extra in 2017.”

“In 2019, Costa estimated that Green Mountain Care would have required $2.9 billion in tax revenue vs. $1.8 billion under pre-existing law: a 160 percent increase in revenue.”

The result should explain why the dream of single-payer health care in the U.S. should be dead for the foreseeable future.

Daily, we read articles calling for “Medicare for All” from progressive politicians running for office.

How stupid do they think Americans are?

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



Copywrite 2006-2019

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

Associations Are  Growing

Stanley Feld M.D. FACP, MACE

Any initiative President Trump and his administration presents to the public is criticized as junk as soon as it is presented. It is criticized without any evidence for the criticism because it does not fit into the Democrat’s narrative of “Medicare for All.”

When the Trump administration rolled out the plan to once again let associations sell healthcare insurance plans to its individual and small businesses Democrats charged that these plans would be worthless.

The mainstream media did not publicize the Trump administration’s initiative. The fact that Obamacare has resulted in higher premiums and deductibles for small businesses and individuals has been downplayed by the mainstream media. In fact, we occasionally see articles declaring that the people like Obamacare. Only twelve million people are insured by Obamacare.

It is not true that people like Obamacare. The fact is premiums and deductible are not affordable for many on Obamacare despite the fact that 85% of the enrollees receive federal government subsidies

The fact is that individuals without healthcare insurance and who do not qualify for Medicaid need insurance. They are stuck buying Obamacare insurance because they do not have any other option. Many have had to go uninsured because they could not afford premiums and deductibles. Many have gotten jobs in our excellent economy where the large employers pay for group healthcare insurance.

The associations’ plans were proposed to provide a less expensive alternative to Obamacare by allowing workers and small businesses to pool together to buy healthcare insurance through the association.

An association, like big corporations, has the ability to negotiate with healthcare insurance companies to lower premium prices and deductible. The tax treatment is also favorable.

The association initiative started in January 2019. Early evidence suggests that the initiative is working out — at least for now.

“The administration’s alternatives, known as “association health plans,” have been covering the same benefits that Obamacare plans do, even though they are not obligated to, according to a new analysis by the industry publication Modern Healthcare and another by AssociationHealthPlans.com.”

 

Just like Obamacare plans, the associations’ plans are paying for prevention, visits the doctor’s office and the hospital, emergency medicine, prescription drugs, maternity care, and mental healthcare.

The plans are also covering people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer or diabetes.

 “In fact, the plans are required to cover all of the above. This is an aspect of their coverage that was not well publicized by the mainstream media, according to Kev Coleman, president of AssociationHealthPlans.com. “That’s something that was lost in the mix.”

 The requirement is part of Obamacare’s regulations. Since Obamacare has not yet been repealed by Congress the rules will remain.

“Officials in the Department of Labor announced new rules for the plans in June, with some of the plans allowed for purchase beginning in September. Since then, at least 28 plans have launched in 13 states, according to Coleman’s analysis.”

Self-employed consultants working out of their homes, plumbers, and massage therapist are joining associations to have the negotiating power of large numbers of people seeking healthcare insurance.

Chambers of commerce and small cities have been forming state trade associations and their employees are joining these rapidly forming associations and enrolling in their insurance plans.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation has 59,000 farmers and ranchers in their association. The associations are similar to what Jeff Bezo,Jamie Diamond and Warren Buffett are planning to do for their 700,000 employees. They plan on selling the insurance across state lines which will reduce the price even further than the 33% reduction the associations are anticipating offering.

The Obama administration had limited the formation of associations selling healthcare insurance. Associations were selling their own plans. They were inexperienced administrating them. Some associations went bankrupt. Large healthcare insurance companies have strict criteria and oversite. Self-run associations are going to take longer than.

Associations are being formed. Outside health insurers have run a few association plans since September 2018. Associations were only allowed to begin running their own plans beginning in January 2019.

Critics complain that the healthcare insurance industry is providing teaser rates to associations now. The critics claim the healthcare insurance companies will eventually raise the premiums. It is a possibility. However, with the increase contributions allowed for Medical Savings Accounts and Health Savings Accounts, association members will have a financial incentive to become a prosumer. Consumers would have incentive to become responsible for their health and healthcare dollars.

A more recent study by the Congressional Budget Office projected that 5 million would be enrolled in the plans each year, 1 million of whom would otherwise have been uninsured. The analysis did not assess how many people on Obamacare would become uninsured.”

The Trump administration plan is truly a disruptive plan to the healthcare industry and government healthcare establishment. The Democrats are terrified because it might work much better than Obamacare and result in a total rejection of “Medicare for All.”

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/healthcare/uninsured-rate-rises-during-trumps-first-two-years-in-office

“It’s not clear from the Gallup poll whether those who are now uninsured used to have an Obamacare plan or had one through an employer or government program. Other data, from the Department of Health and Human Services, show that the number of people in Obamacare plans has dropped only slightly since Obama left office.”

The problem is that enrollment in Obamacare has not risen while the uninsured has.

The number of people on Medicaid has risen dramatically due to some states accepting  Medicaid expansion. The federal government is due to stop paying over 90% of the bill for Medicaid and transfer the burden of payment to those states. Most of those state have large budget deficits that are only going to become larger.

“The highest increases in the uninsured rate were among women, people living in households with annual incomes of less than $48,000 a year, and adults under the age of 35. The young adults had an uninsured rate of more than 21 percent, a 4.8 percentage point increase from two years earlier. Among women, the uninsured rate increased from 8.9 percent in 2016 to 12.8 percent by the end of 2018.”

People cannot afford Obamacare premiums or deductibles. Associations might provide more affordable options. People working for large organizations presently have healthcare coverage.

Consumers understand how inefficient government-run programs have been. It is appropriate to let the free market give it a try. The formation of associations with appropriate regulations is certainly a free market step as opposed to the Democrats’ Obamacare that has failed. It is clear that government control of medical care is financially unsustainable.

We will see how associations and consumers responsible for healthcare dollars works out.

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



Copywrite 2006-2019

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

Did Obamacare Cause The Increase In Private Healthcare Insurance Premiums?

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

A reader of my blog received this question from one of his friends.

The reader asked me his friend’s question  “I have a question and I don’t want it to be political (as I stay away from that for many reasons).                                                                                                                                 
Health insurance is so expensive and it does not cover hardly anything. We had to get the worst plan with the worst coverage. But it was not this way 6 years ago. We could afford good coverage.   

 The question is: Did Obamacare cause this change in healthcare insurance and these problems in access to care?

A reader asked:

Which of your blogs would be the best one to show him to answer his question?

The answer to the question is YES!! I will try to explain.

If I sent all the links to your friend would be overwhelmed. There are too many to count.  I will summarize some of the major reasons Obamacare is to blame for some of the increases in private healthcare insurance premiums and the decrease in the access to care. Obamacare has led us into a financial disaster. “Medicare for All” is not the answer.

I believe the goal of Obamacare was to create greater dysfunction in the healthcare system which would lead to huge premium increases for private healthcare coverage. The public would then beg the government to adopt a single party payer system with “Medicare for all.” This has been the progressives”  goal since 1935. Do you remember Barney Frank and John Kerry saying we cannot have a single party payer system yet because we do not have the votes?

https://stanleyfeldmdmace.typepad.com/repairing_the_healthcare_/2018/10/the-main-reason-behind-rising-medical-costs.html

The government has not had a very successful single party payer systems record.  The VA Health Administration, the Indian Health Service, Medicare and Medicaid are all inefficient and financially unsustainable.

“Our federal government already runs three single-payer systems—Medicare, the Veterans Health Administration, and the Indian Health Service—each of which is in a shambles, noted for fraud, waste, and corruption.”

“Why would we want to turn over all of the American medicine to those who have proved themselves incompetent to run large parts of it?”

https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/short-history-american-medical-insurance/

The federal government depends on healthcare insurance companies to do the administrative services for Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare. Administrative services include negotiating payments to hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and providers on all levels.

The various healthcare insurance companies are supposed to bid for these service contracts. The insurance companies receive one global fee.  The healthcare insurance company with the contract must pay providers on a fee for service basis. The healthcare insurance companies do not have good enough data to make an accurate bid estimate.  Actuary science is not rocket science. The healthcare insurance company builds in a twenty percent cushion to the bid. If the bid was low and the healthcare insurance company that lost money Obamacare guaranteed through a complicated reinsurance formula reimbursement to the company for its loss.

Recently the government audit discovered an overpayment of $10 billion dollars to the healthcare insurance industry for Medicare Part D.

I believe there is much more overpayment in Medicare Part A, B and D because of the government bureaucracy. The government only had the money to pay 12% of the reinsurance claims of the healthcare insurance company one year. The insurance industry simply raised the premium in the private sector.

http://stanfeld.com/president-obama-somehow-finds-the-money/

http://stanfeld.com/accelerating-the-destruction-of-the-healthcare-system/

http://stanfeld.com/the-deception-and-disinformation-continues/

Nationwide, the Obama administration made $7.3 billion in reinsurance payments to health insurers. The reinsurance program, funded by taxes on health insurers and self-funded employer health plans, has been criticized by Republicans as a “bailout” for insurers.

https://www.ibj.com/blogs/12-the-dose-jk-wall/post/53906-obamacare-shovels-another-122m-to-indiana-insurers

The healthcare insurance industry then once again raised premiums on the private healthcare sector to make up for its losses. to

The government reinsurance payments weren’t enough in all cases. New York-based Assurant Inc. asked for a 26 percent hike in private premiums for 2016, due to high claims in Indiana, before that company decided to exit the Obamacare markets in all states.

This was typical price shifting.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=price+shifting

Healthcare insurance companies projected that Obamacare would result in them losing money because of adverse selection. Obamacare’s increase required benefits for both public and private insurance. Obamacare’s rules included coverage for oral contraceptives for all and coverage of pre-existing illnesses among others. A sixty-year-old male does not need an insurance policy the receives oral contraceptives.

The healthcare insurance industry asked for double-digit increases in private healthcare insurance in every state. The logic was that these enrollees would pay for the loses that would occur from the Obamacare enrollees.

http://stanfeld.com/managing-points-of-view-and-healthcare/

The government’s argument is all should pay for everyone ’s healthcare needs. These healthcare needs have increased as the population has gotten more obese and has had a rise in drug addiction. These increased healthcare risks resulted in increased actuary estimates of healthcare cost. It does not put a burden on consumers who do not act responsibly.

The increased healthcare premiums caused many employers to drop healthcare coverage for their employees. The decrease in healthcare insurance coverage added to the pressure of healthcare premium increases.

The healthcare insurance industry also plays games with the Medical Loss ratio. The result is an increase in healthcare premiums and deductibles while decreasing services. The Obamacare issued regulations that the insurance industry must dedicate 80% of the healthcare premium to direct medical care and 20 % can be used for administrative expenses for both the public government insurance and private insurance. It is the state insurance regulators responsibility to enforce the regulation.

The expenses the industry wanted to be included are;

Expenses to be included in direct medical care are:

  1. The cost of verifying the credentials of doctors in its networks.
  2. The cost of ferreting out fraud such as catching physicians over testing patients or doing unnecessary operations.
  3. The cost of programs that keep people who have diabetes out of emergency rooms.
  4. The sales commissions paid to insurance agents.
  5. Taxes paid on investments.
  6. Taxes paid on premium income.

All these expenses are administrative expenses in my view and not medical expenses. If these expenses are permitted as benefit expenses, premium money available for direct medical care would decrease. The eighty percent required for direct medical care would be markedly reduced. The result would be an increase in healthcare insurance premiums.

http://stanfeld.com/medical-loss-ratio-how-did-the-healthcare-insurance-industry-do/

http://stanfeld.com/what-is-the-medical-loss-ratio/

The calculation for direct medical care helps the healthcare insurance company prove it lost money. The insurance company then applies to state regulators for a premium increase. The state regulators permit the premium increases.  If the premium increase is refused by the regulators the insurance company threatens to leave the state. The other option the healthcare insurance company uses is to decrease the insurance services and/or increase the insurance deductibles.

Another problem has developed in the healthcare insurance industry that is causing it to raise premiums and reduce services and access to care as a result of Obamacare.

Hospital systems are buying out physicians’ practices. Obamacare has put many restrictions on physician practices. It has increased practices overhead. Obamacare has decreased the ability for physicians to use their medical or surgical judgment that they have become happy to sell their practices to hospital systems. The hospital systems now have to deal with the problems of medical practice. The cost of electronic medical records, which have not added to the quality of medical care, increased many physicians’ willingness to sell their practices to hospital systems. At the moment the percentages of hospital-owned practices are up to 65% from only 17% ten years ago.

http://stanfeld.com/physicians-barriers-to-practice-their-profession/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704122904575315213525018390

As premiums have gone up physicians have not experienced an increase in reimbursement. They have been forced to see more patients quickly to earn almost as much as before Obamacare. Obamacare has destroyed the patient-physician relationship which in my view is essential in medical care. Physicians simply do not have time to talk to patients.

Hospital systems have taken over physician populations in many communities. This gives the hospital leverage over the healthcare insurance industry. The hospital system can demand higher reimbursement because it provides all the physicians.

The large hospital systems can demand that the insurance company only use the physicians in its hospital system even if there are lower cost of care options in a community.

The result is an increase in healthcare premiums and decreased the quality of care.

All of this is the result of Obamacare. There are about ten more reasons why Obamacare has increased premiums and decreased access to care. I have left link exposed. You are encouraged to look at them to see the full explanation for some of the point I have made.

I hope this blog answers your friend’s question. :  Did Obamacare cause this change in healthcare insurance and these problems in access to care? 

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



Copywrite 2006-2019

Please have a friend subscribe

 

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

A Thoughtful Solution To Repairing The Healthcare System

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP,MACE

President Trump might be going in the right direction. Unfortunately, the media’s hatred of him and the Democratic Party’s ideology and obstructionism might prevent him from potentially pursuing a new and sustainable direction that gives consumers the power to choose their healthcare goals. There is no reason that the government could not incentivize and subsidize the needy and less fortunate with this simple system.

I think everyone is tired of the political noise in the healthcare system. There seems to be no room for an understandable signal. However, I believe that effective technology and social networking can serve to decrease that noise to signal ratio and provide a less complex system.

President Trump is offering association directed healthcare plans, a blueprint to reduce decrease drug costs and health reimbursement arrangements to reduce the cost of healthcare insurance.

All three initiatives, if kept simple, can put control of the healthcare system in the hands of consumers.

Associations can provide healthcare plans to its members.  An association health plan (AHP) can provide multiple medical insurance plan options. Smaller employers, freelancers and self-employed association members can buy healthcare insurance through the association.

President Trump’s new regulations have made it easier for the members of associations to be equal to large corporations in negotiating the purchasing for health care insurance. They can also offer multiple healthcare plans and still have a high enough enrollment to obtain deeply discounted premiums and deductibles for small businesses, freelancers and self-employed that the members cannot get on their own.

These consumers will also be able to spend pre-tax dollars on their healthcare plans.

Access to the savings and benefit flexibility enjoyed by large group health plans is the foundation of the new association health plans. These savings can range from 8 to 18 percent for the same health insurance policy.”

“ Savings can be increased further through tactics such as self-insuring. Avalere Health, a healthcare research and consulting firm, has projected in a recent report that “premiums in the new AHPs are projected to be between $1,900 to $4,100 lower than the yearly premiums in the small group market and $8,700 to $10,800 lower than the yearly premiums in the individual market by 2022, depending on the generosity of AHP coverage offered.”

I think Jeff Bezos, Jamie Diamond and Warren Buffet’s new alliance has the right idea. They will provide deeply discounted healthcare coverage for their combined employees.

The primary advantage of offering health insurance through an association is the ability for an association to aggregate multiple employers so that the resulting health plan:

  • Operates under a large group health plan rules, which can be less costly than Affordable Care Act rules for small group plans.”
  • “Leverages its scale of participants in negotiations with health providers in order to obtain more favorable rates for medical services.”

The country has not been given enough information nor data to understand Obamacare’s inefficiency. The media has not been helpful in letting consumers understand Obamacare’s inefficiency and deficiencies.

President Trump is interested in having associations form and compare their success to the failed structure of Obamacare. Obamacare would seize to exist.

If associations are done right they can become a simple system that consumers can easily understand and use. This was Steve Jobs vision when Apple developed the iPod, iPhone, and iPads.

The insurance product that could achieve this vision for healthcare is my Ideal Medical Savings Accounts.

Americans need the new option to create a sustainable healthcare system.

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



Copywrite 2006-2019

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

Thinking About The Healthcare System’s Problems

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

President Trump’s administration has developed an alternative to Obamacare.

The press is suddenly saying the public considers the healthcare system its biggest problem. The healthcare system has been a huge problem all along. Obamacare was supposed to fix the problem. Obamacare has only enrolled twelve (12) million people in an individual healthcare market in 2019. Eighty-five percent of those enrolled are receiving government subsidies. Many of the enrollees have unaffordable deductibles and cannot afford to use the healthcare insurance.

Obamacare is methodically destroying the infrastructure of the healthcare system. Consumers of healthcare are becoming commodities. The healthcare system is complex. Obamacare has increased its complexity. It has increased costs to Medicare and Medicaid and made the entire healthcare system unsustainable.

Unfortunately, Democrats have ignored Obamacare’s effect on our national deficit while not increasing the efficiency of delivering healthcare. There has been some press quoting Democrats who have said that Republicans are starting to believe that our budget deficit is not significant.

It was recently discovered that insurance companies have overcharged the government’s Medicare Part D more than ten billion dollars.

What are consumers thinking as their savings are worth less and drugs cost more each year? Do they believe that the government’s bureaucracy is efficient? Is it any wonder that Congress’ approval rating is close to single digits?

When people feel they have less freedom to choose their doctor, hospital or insurance company and are being compelled by their government to settle for what is available, does anyone think they want more of the same?

Now, the narrative heard all over the land is “Medicare for All.” Medicare for all will not solve the healthcare system’s problems. It did not solve the VA Healthcare systems problem. The VA system is being privatized.

I do not believe that the way to solve our healthcare problem is to enlarge an unsustainable program. It is illogical. It will make the healthcare system worse and more unsustainable.

The first thing to do to solve any problem is to understand the problem. Everyone wants the best medical care for the entire population. Everyone says the healthcare system is so complex that it is impossible to fix.

The best way to cut through the healthcare system complexity and find a solution is to a clearly define the goal. The goal should be quality medical care available for all at an affordable cost. This means that all of the waste must be eliminated from the healthcare system. This is the goal of the Trump administration’s three-point approach.

Next, is to search for an approach devoid of politics and ideology that will have the highest impact. In my view, this means developing a system that provides consumers with the most control and responsibility for their medical care decisions.

The highest impact can be provided by the development of a system using technology to put the healthcare system in the hands of consumers. It must provide consumers with the greatest control over their choices and generate incentives to be responsible for their medical care and healthcare dollars.

There will be outliers who will be a potential burden to the system. However, if a system is developed with financial incentives to consumers, those outliers will realize they are hurting themselves. I do not believe consumers are stupid. They have simply been uneducated, unaware and unmotivated to control their health and healthcare dollars because a system to motivate them to be healthy and responsible for themselves is unavailable.

Steve Jobs said it all when he told his engineers that the consumers are not too stupid to use the machines, we are too stupid to make machines that easy to use. The same holds true for our healthcare system.  The goal in the healthcare system would be to reorient our thinking.

Obamacare is beyond improving because it put more power in the hands of the government which translates to more control over consumers’ freedom. An “improvement” such as an attempt to provide “Medicare for All” will lead to disaster.

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



Copywrite 2006-2018

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

The Expansion Of Personalized Healthcare Insurance Benefits.  

 Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

The Senate rejected the  slimmed-down Obamacare Repeal bill as Senator John McCain was the deciding no vote July 27,2017.

“When Senator John McCain of Arizona returned to Washington with a fresh scar from brain surgery, it was widely seen as a dramatic effort to help Republicans overturn Obamacare.

 Little did Mr. Trump know that the Arizona senator would help drive the stake through legislation that sought to realize the Republicans’ seven-year dream of finally dismantling Obamacare.”

 John McCain’s vote was a surprise to everyone. Mitch McConnell then put healthcare reform on hold. Senator McConnell decided to let Obamacare die on its own.

However, the Senate rejection did not deter President Trump from pursuing healthcare reform .

He has already approved the development of purchasing associations through an executive order. The associations will sell health Insurance coverage. The rules will go into effect January 1, 2019.

He has also has attacked the drug industry with his blue print on drugs. The regulations from this will decrease the costs of drugs by decreasing the number of middlemen in the manufacture to sales process.

On October 2017 President Trump issued an executive order to promote healthcare choice and competition in the country.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-promoting-healthcare-choice-competition-across-united-states/

In the executive order President Trump said his goal was to ‘Expanded Availability and Permitted Use of Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

 The Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, to the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with nongroup coverage.

The Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services proposed regulations in October 2018 that would significantly expand personalized health benefits to consumers and would offer increasing price pressure to lower insurance prices tor U.S. businesses. Most U.S. businesses want to continue to provide medical coverage for their employees. However they need affordable prices.

The proposals, issued Tuesday, October 23, 2018 by Treasury ,Labor and HHS were a response to the October 2017  executive order from President Donald Trump.

 “That order instructed the Departments to increase the availability and usability of health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)—especially those offered in conjunction with non-group insurance.”

The proposal is well thought out. I have a problem with some of the upcoming regulations but they are an excellent step in the right direction.

The regulations do not utilize a most important element in my ideal medical savings accounts. It does not provide financial incentives for consumers to become informed consumers of healthcare or motivated to save healthcare dollars.

Consumers of healthcare have to be incentivized to become savvy purchasers of their own healthcare and healthcare insurance coverage.

“If enacted, the regulations would create two new HRAs: something we’re calling the individual-integrated HRA, and the smaller, excepted benefit HRA.”

HRAs can be viewed as a superstructure for my ideal medical savings accounts. President Obama did everything he could to discourage the purchase of health savings accounts. His goal was to drive everyone into a single party payer system with the individual consumer’s healthcare decision are made by the government.

Despite President Obama’s attempts to discourage health savings accounts, they grew as the fastest and most popular healthcare insurance product. HSAs permitted consumers to have some   control of their healthcare spending and some of their healthcare dollars.

“In 2013, IRS Notice 2013-54 issued guidance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that seriously limited businesses’ ability to offer HRAs. The IRS said that while HRAs integrated with group health insurance satisfy key ACA provisions, HRAs integrated with individual health insurance do not.”

This is where Obamacare discouraged consumers to buy HSA as individuals. The insurance was not completely tax free to businesses or individual consumers.

“Congress provided some relief in December 2016 by creating the qualified small employer HRA (QSEHRA). The QSEHRA, a benefit specifically designed for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, allows businesses to reimburse employees tax-free for their health care costs.”

With his October 2017 executive order, President Trump sought to expand HRAs even further. In the order, he asked the Treasury, the DOL, and the HHS to reexamine past rulings and “increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with non-group coverage.”

The new proposed regulations are a direct response to that executive order. Unfortunately it does not solve the healthcare insurance problem. The proposal keeps the insurance industry in charge of the healthcare dollars and healthcare decisions. It is a step in the right direction. It helps small business more than it helps the individual.

  QSEHRA  “Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement”  Individual-integrated HRA
Business size restrictions Only available to businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees. None.
Employee eligibility requirements All full-time employees are automatically eligible. Part-time employees can be included, but the HRA must be offered on the same terms. Employees can participate in the HRA without individual health insurance, but those without MEC must pay income tax on all reimbursements during the time they were uninsured. The business can set eligibility guidelines according to permitted employee classes, but the HRA must be offered on the same terms to all employees in each class. Employees without individual health insurance, including those covered by a spouse’s group policy, cannot participate in the HRA.
Allowance amount restrictions In 2018, annual allowance amounts are capped at $5,050 for self-only employees and $10,250 for employees with a family. The business can vary allowance amounts only by family status, age, and family size, but not based on employee classes. There are no caps on annual allowance amounts. The business can vary allowance amounts according to permitted employee classes, as well as age and family size.
Group policy requirements Businesses offering the HRA cannot offer a group policy. Businesses offering the HRA may offer a group policy, but it cannot offer both the group policy and the HRA to the same employee class.
Premium tax credit coordination Individuals participating in the HRA are still eligible for premium tax credits, but the amount of the credit is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount of the HRA allowance. Individuals participating in the HRA aren’t eligible for premium tax credits.

 

I will explain each category as well as its advantages and disadvantages in the near future. These regulations do much toward Repairing the Healthcare System.

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



Copywrite 2006-2018

Please have a friend subscribe

 

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

President Trump’s Drug Plan

President Trump’s Drug Plan

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

It is very difficult to know the truth in our post truth era. Intellectuals, elites and the well-educated are criticizing every idea the Trump administration brings forward.

He was hampered in moving forward in Repairing the Healthcare System when his own Republican Party did not pass the house of representatives’ bill to repeal Obamacare. The repeal would have enabled his administration to move the repair of the healthcare system forward quickly.

Most of President Trump’s ideas when it has related to repairing the healthcare system have been common sense. They are steps in the right direction.

Common sense solutions sometimes threaten to undermine extremely profitable private and public enterprises. The pharmaceutical industry and all related middlemen are an industry that is threatened by President Trump’s common sense solutions.

The industry will do everything in its power to spin the story so that the Trump administration’s plans sound sinister to the American public.

The American public can only make decisions on the information presented. In the post-true era the public does not know what to believe. The media has been anti-Trump and is not interested in presenting the details of President Trump’s blueprint for lowering drug prices utilizing free market principles.

“The problem of high prescription drug costs is something that’s been talked about in Washington for a long time. But that’s all it’s been: talk, talk, talk.

We are privileged to have a president finally acting, by laying out a blueprint for solving these problems using private-sector competition and private sector negotiation.

We’re not going to propose cheap political gimmicks. The President’s blueprint is a sophisticated approach to reforming and improving our system.

Everyone at HHS is rolling up their sleeves to get to work on this.”

On October 28,2018 the WSJ editorial board wrote a negative view of the Trump administration’s plan to lower drug prices. It is almost as if the editorial board did not read President Trump’s proposal as it appears on the White House web site. 

I believe it is worth discussing President Trump’s blueprint for lower drug prices.

I will then present the main points in the Wall Street Journal editorial.

The blueprint starts by stating:

These are the main problems with drug prices in the U.S.

Drug costs consume 30% of the healthcare dollar. Drug costs are unaffordable to both consumers and the government. Over 40% of elderly patients consume greater than nine drugs daily. Fifty percent of those 40% experience adverse drug reactions due to drug interaction. Many end up being hospitalized thereby increasing the cost of medical care.

If a patient cannot afford to buy a drug because of its cost it will not help control their disease. A hospitalization will occur increasing the cost of healthcare.

One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. Prices will come down.”

President Donald J. Trump” 

The public should take this comment at face value.

These are some of the facts;

  • According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States had the highest per-capita pharmaceutical spending in 2015.
  • Senior citizens pay more in Medicare Part B and Part D because government rules prevent health plans and vendors from negotiating the better deals seen in other markets.

Isn’t that crazy? The government negotiates drug prices for the VA and Military but not for seniors. The government pays less than half for drugs in the VA healthcare system than seniors do for Medicare Part B and Part D.

  • Some hospitals that receive drug discounts under the 340B program, ultimately pushing up drug prices for patients with private health insurance.

The 340B program was enacted in 1992 by congress.  Section 340B requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to enter into an agreement, called a pharmaceutical pricing agreement (PPA), with the HHS Secretary.

Under the PPA, the manufacturer agrees to provide front-end discounts on covered outpatient drugs purchased by specified providers, called “covered entities,” that serve the nation’s most vulnerable patient populations. Medicaid patients get drugs free. The government pays the pharmaceutical companies the money through a series of middlemen.

  • Lower-cost drugs are kept out of the market by drug companies gaming regulatory processes and the patent system in order to unfairly maintain monopolies.
  • Lack of transparency in drug pricing benefits special interests and prevents patients from being able to make fully informed decisions about their care.
  • Other countries use socialized healthcare to command unfairly low prices from U.S. drug makers. These lower prices place the burden of financing drug development largely on American patients and taxpayers and subsidizes foreign consumers.
    • The United States pays more than 70 percent of branded drug profits among OECD countries.
  • The drug companies claim this behavior by other countries reduces innovation and the development of new treatments. They have to make the loss of revenue up by increasing the price of drugs.

The HHS executive summary outlines not only the problem it outlines the Trump administration’s solution. President Trump’s HHS team which includes CMS has spent many years studying the abuses that have led to dysfunction of the healthcare system. I believe HHS figured out the solution.

HHS has identified four challenges in the American drug market:

 High list prices for drugs

  • Seniors and government programs overpaying for drugs due to lack of the latest negotiation tools
  • High and rising out-of-pocket costs for consumers
  • Foreign governments free-riding of American investment in innovation

 Under President Trump, HHS has proposed a comprehensive blueprint for addressing these challenges, identifying four key strategies for reform:

 Improved competition

  • Better negotiation
  • Incentives for lower list prices
  • Lowering out-of-pocket costs

 There is nothing sinister about these goals. Some will work. Direct negotiation with drug companies certainly will work. The middlemen get more money per capsule than the drug company that invented and manufactured the drug. The middlemen, who are marketers, are terrified that President Trump is going to destroy their business.

 HHS’s blueprint encompasses two phases:

 1) actions the President may direct HHS to take immediately.

 2) actions HHS is actively considering, on which feedback is being solicited.

  Complex drug networks 11 26

The president and his administration are not a heartless group of politicians who don’t care about cancer drug cost. They are interested in patients receiving the best care at an affordable price. They care about fair pricing. Their goal is to eliminate the mechanisms by which multiple stakeholders game the system. This includes the multiple middlemen and the tremendous bureaucratic load.

Is the diagram complicated enough? Can you visualize all the areas of potential abuse? Do you think a government bureaucracy can control the potential abuse?

Phase one of the blueprint:

  • Lower prices on some Medicare Part B drugs could be negotiated for by Part D plans
  • Leveraging the Competitive Acquisition Program in Part B.
  • Working across the Administration to assess the problem of foreign free-riding.

 

The administration is aware of foreign free riding. They have not published a definite free market solution to change the situation yet.

Further Opportunities

  • Considering further use of value-based purchasing in federal programs, including indication-based pricing and long-term financing.
  • Removing government impediments to value-based purchasing by private payers.

 

ValueBased Purchasing (VBP) Linking provider payments to improved performance by health care providers. This form of payment holds health care providers accountable for both the cost and quality of care they provide. It attempts to reduce inappropriate care and to identify and reward the best-performing providers.”

 This is a stupid idea. It might save money but it tries to direct care and eliminate physician judgement. Healthcare providers will figure out how to game the system.

  • Requiring site neutrality in payment.

 

Site neutrality payment means “Under OPPS 2019, reimbursement for clinic visits in outpatient hospital settings would be capped at the rate paid for clinic visits in physician offices.”

It is about time this is happening. Hospitals are buying more and more physicians’ practices. Hospital systems bill the government hospital reimbursement prices. These prices are twice the government and private insurance companies approved office prices.

I suspect the hospital systems do not credit the physicians with this increase in reimbursement. The hospital systems leverage physicians’ intellectual property and outpatient surgical skills for the hospital systems’ own profit.

Hospital systems will fight this change tooth and nail. President Trump has the courage to go at it. Almost everyone in medicine has known about these unfair payments. However, past U.S. presidents have been afraid of the blowback from the powerful hospital lobby.

President Obama knew that this would drive physicians into selling their practices to hospital systems. The result is obvious. It would be easier to institute a single party payer system.

Evaluating the accuracy and usefulness of current national drug spending data.

Phase two;

  • Incentives for Lower List Prices Immediate Actions
  • FDA evaluation of requiring manufacturers to include list prices in advertising
  • Updating Medicare’s drug-pricing dashboard to make price increases and generic competition more transparent.

Further Opportunities

  • Measures to restrict the use of rebates, including revisiting the safe harbor under the Antikickback statute for drug rebates.

“The anti-kickback statute has been in place since 1971, but these specific safe harbors, protecting drug companies from anti-kickback laws, were introduced more than 2 decades ago.

The federal government provides an excellent resource for information about these safe harbors at the Federal Register website. It tells everything one needs to know about the opportunities for fraud and abuse in the current system. The website describes how the Trump administration plans to eliminate the government support of fraud and abuse.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/07/2016-28297/medicare-and-state-health-care-programs-fraud-and-abuse-revisions-to-the-safe-harbors-under-the

In brief, the safe harbors define exceptions to situations where organizations are receiving “remuneration” for providing goods or services.

 A rebate given as an incentive to provide a drug (i.e., on formulary) or to utilize more of a product (i.e., “performance rebates”) would currently qualify for safe harbor protection.”

 

https://biosimilarsrr.com/2018/07/24/anti-kickback-safe-harbors-drug-rebate-contracts-biosimilars/

I will discuss this in more detail in the future. This is another act of courage by the Trump administration. It is also a common sense move to reduce the cost of healthcare in our dysfunctional healthcare system.

  • Additional reforms to the rebating system.
  • Using incentives to discourage manufacturer price increases for drugs used in Part B and Part D.

The high retail pricing of new drugs on the market must be control. Many of the new drugs are a reformulation of two old drugs. The reformulation does not change the effectiveness of either drug.

The retail price of drugs used to treat cancer must be controlled someway.

  • Considering fiduciary status for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs)
  • Reforms to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program
  • Reforms to the 340B drug discount program
  • Considering changes to HHS regulations regarding drug copay discount cards

 Lowering Out-of-Pocket Costs Immediate Actions

  • Prohibiting Part D contracts from preventing pharmacists telling patients when they could pay less out-of-pocket by not using insurance
  • Improving the usefulness of the Part D Explanation of Benefits statement by including information about drug price increases and lower cost alternatives.

  Further Opportunities to Reduce Drug Costs to Consumers

 More measures to inform Medicare Parts B and D beneficiaries about lower cost alternatives

  • Providing better annual, or more frequent, information on costs to Part D beneficiaries
  •  Insurance Contract Reimbursement for Consumers’ Rx
  • Share of Manufacturer Rebates.
  • Consumers Payers Drug Manufacturer Pharmacies
  • Pharmacy Benefits Manager Formulary Agreement
  • Copayment Network Agreement
  • PBM Agreement Payment for Dispensed Drugs Formulary
  • Rebates & Other Fees Premium Drugs
  • Money Contracting Dispensed Drugs
  • Prime Vendor Agreement Shipped Bulk Drugs Payment for Wholesale Drugs Distributor
  • Payment for Wholesale Drugs Shipped Bulk Drugs Distributor Agreement

 

Most physician do not know about this complicated system. All they care about is taking care of the patients. It is time physicians understand how ancillary providers have been   ripping off the patients. Somehow, the ancillary providers manage to blame drug prices  on physicians.

Finally, we have an administration that not only recognizes the problems but is not afraid to fix them.

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



Copywrite 2006-2018

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.

Permalink:

The Mainstream Media Refuses to Understand the Meaning of President Trump’s Healthcare Insurance Associations  

 Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

The Mainstream media refuses to acknowledge the advantage of the Presidential order to allow Associations to participate in available health insurance plans.

Democrats do not want the public to understand the advantages President Trump’s healthcare insurance associations will provide to consumers. It is an important step in Repairing the Healthcare System. Obamacare was advertised only to fix the individual insurance market.

Pre- Obamacare there were 14 million people who had individual healthcare insurance plans. Most were unaffordable. Now, there are only 12 million in the individual market on Obamacare. Most are unaffordable.

Medicaid has expanded from 2 million to 10 million under Obamacare. The total on healthcare insurance provide by Obamacare  is 22 million. Medicaid is a failed healthcare insurance plan. It is a socialized medical insurance plan the has failed.

The mainstream media has forgotten that Obamacare was originally sold by President Obama to cover the individual insurance market. The individual healthcare insurance market was unaffordable. Obamacare was supposed to make it affordable. It turns out that 85% of Obamacare recipients are subsidized by the federal government. President Obama has expanded socialized medicine and a single party payer (the government) with Obamacare. Even with government subsidies the insurance is unaffordable because of the high deductibles.

It is difficult for me to understand how President Obama says he always tells the truth. He said he was going to make the healthcare individual market more affordable. He has not.

I remember he also said; “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor” and “if you like your healthcare plan you can keep your healthcare plan.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Obamacare was passed there were requirements in the bill that outlined coverage the healthcare insurance industry must provide for everyone who has any kind of healthcare insurance. These requirements included levels of coverage that many people did not need. This excess coverage raised the cost of healthcare insurance in both the individual healthcare insurance market and the group healthcare insurance market. Both types of insurance became unaffordable.

This, combined with the inefficiency of a bureaucratic government raised prices of healthcare insurance even further. Remember the government outsources all of the administrative services to the healthcare insurance industry.

Now, the Democrats want the government to run the entire healthcare delivery system with “Medicare for All.” The unsustainability of “Medicare for All” is estimated at 32 TRILLION dollars over the next ten years!

Associations will not solve all the problems in the healthcare system.  However, they will start solving a good many of them. The Democrats are scared to death that the public will start to understand the advantages of associations. Consumers will have a choice of healthcare insurance plans. Consumers will be in a position to start controlling their healthcare dollars.

The pundits in the mainstream media seem to have no interest in understanding this dynamic. Their only interest is to despise President Trump and regurgitate the Democrats’ easy to understand talking points.

Trump’s associations will:

  1. allow the healthcare industry to sell healthcare plans without the rigid requirements imposed on them by Obamacare.
  1. make individual healthcare plans tax deductible. The large corporations’ group healthcare insurance plans are tax deductible. The individual healthcare insurance plans presently are not tax deductible.
  1. allow members to buy healthcare insurance across state lines. This will create price competition that will lower premiums.
  1. let small companies and the self-employed band together and buy health insurance outside of Obamacare’s strict rules.
  1. offer a way for people to take advantage of the group insurance market, even if they are self-employed or work for a business too small to provide insurance.
  1. will “level the playing field” by giving small businesses bargaining power.” This statement was made by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Mr. Acosta said “As the cost of insurance for small businesses has been increasing, the percentage of small business offering health coverage has been dropping substantially,”. “This expansion will offer millions of Americans more affordable health care options.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the change, “will give employers the relief and flexibility they need to cover more employees at a lower cost with more choices for quality care.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 4 million people, including 400,000 who otherwise would go without insurance, are expected to join association health care plans by 2023.

The introduction of associations is going to disrupt the Democrats plans to take total control of the delivery of healthcare. It is going to start to put healthcare delivery back in the hands of the consumer!

Mr. Trump said at the National Federation of Independent Business’ 75th anniversary celebration in his usual hyperbolic style;

“You’re going to save a fortune,”

I believe he is closer to being right than he is being wrong.

 

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



Copywrite 2006-2018

Please have a friend subscribe

  • Thanks for leaving a comment, please keep it clean. HTML allowed is strong, code and a href.