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Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

It looks like the Senate is making a mess out of its version (BCRA) of repeal and replace Obamacare.

My first reaction was that Better Care Reconciliation Act is a stupid name for a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

I have not heard a single specific criticism of BCRA by the Democratic leadership.

Nancy Pelosi said the bill will kill hundred of thousands of people. Hillary Clinton said it was a death bill. Chuck Schumer told the American people it is a terrible bill and leave millions uninsured. They all said it is going to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The evidence for these statements has not been presented.

Democrats have used these scare tactics so often that no one believes them anymore.

Americans are smarter than that.

Republicans have not explained the strategy behind BCRA in making the healthcare system better than Obamacare either.

All I have heard from President Trump is that it is a beautiful bill. It will make our healthcare system great.

If no one understands BCRA how can a media driven public poll with a 17% approval rate have any meaning?

The survey of public opinion is meaningless.

At present Obamacare has left 26 million uninsured and rising. It has only insured less than ten million people in the individual market.

Obamacare is also unaffordable. The deductibles are as high as $6500 before any insurance kicks in. People who buy the insurance have no insurance until they spend more than $6500.

I don’t understand the Senate Republicans who want a perfect conservative bill. They are not going to get it. They will yield the floor to the minority Democrats.

The turkey buzzards are circling the corpse already. The corpse being Obamacare and the Republican replacement

Elizabeth Warren said we must go to the next steps which is a single party payer system now.

I believe Obamacare is going to self-destruct in 2018 if nothing is passed immediately.

The choice for the Republicans who are oppose compromise and the passing of BCRA is clear to me.

Either the Republicans pass this bill and have a chance for a free market healthcare system or reject it and end up with a failed Obamacare healthcare system.

Everyone knows the replacement for a failed Obamacare system is a single party payer system just like the VA Healthcare System.

A single party payer system will be an unaffordable disaster.

I will not comment on the specifics of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) except to say it is not perfect.

Let us see if it passes and what form takes. I will make some comments at that time.

President Trump needs BCRA to pass in order to make significant inroads in reforming the tax code.

I would be a pity if his fellow Republicans tied his hand on significant tax reform to simplify the tax code.

My hope is that Tom Price knows how to fix the healthcare system once the house and senate agree on specifics of the bill in conference.

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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It Is All about How You Look At Things

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Senate Republicans Are Making Repeal and Replace Harder Than It Should Be

 Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

I think the Republican establishment in the senate is trying to undermine President Trump’s agenda.

It would be easy to repeal and replace Obamacare if the reasons for its failure where publicized. The main reason is that it does not align the initiatives of most of the stakeholders. The cost of administration is a close second.

Obamacare is about redistribution of wealth and control over the healthcare system. It ends up penalizing the middle class the most because of premium increases.

People like entitlements because they are free. Someone else is paying for them.

Politicians want to keep their jobs. They do not want to upset people who receive these entitlements.

“But the revisions may well alienate the Senate’s most conservative members, who are eager to rein in the growth of Medicaid and are unlikely to support a bill that does not roll back large components of the current law.

Even with more moderate Republicans on board, party leaders would have a very narrow margin for passage on the Senate floor.”

The healthcare insurance companies do not want to lose money selling healthcare insurance. They are getting out of the healthcare market because, by their calculations, they are losing money.

The Republicans establishment in the Senate want to continue to provide subsidies to the healthcare insurance industry.

Congress needs the healthcare insurance industry’s ability to provide administrative services whether it is for Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance exchange coverage (Obamacare) or private insurance.

The government’s goal is to provide enough financial incentives for the healthcare insurance industry to provide affordable healthcare insurance coverage while saving money.

President Obama subsidized the healthcare insurance industry for any perceived losses through the Obamacare reinsurance program. Then President Obama reneged on the agreement. He only paid 12% of what was owed according to the insurance industry’s calculations..

Democrats want a single party payer system. They want everyone on Medicare or Medicaid. It is simple. The result is the government provides healthcare insurance for everyone. Everyone receives first dollar coverage. This would be the mother of all entitlements.

The single party payer system would also provide the government with tremendous power over the people. It would control consumers’ freedom of choice.

Along with this simple single party system comes a complex bureaucracy with all the inefficiencies that I have described previously.

Consumers would be chained to the inefficient healthcare system. The inefficiencies in the system have been graphically demonstrated by the VA Healthcare System and its ever increasing costs.

It would be nice if a single party payer system were efficient and affordable. Canada has a universal healthcare system. Canadians who are not sick and do not need their healthcare system believe the Canadian system is great.

They ignore the fact that the Canadian provinces are paying 50% of their GNP to provide free healthcare to all Canadians.

Canada’s health-care wait times costing patients many millions in lost time, wages”

Ontarians wait longer for health care than citizens of other universal health-care countries”

The fact is single party payer systems do not work for all the stakeholders.Both Democrats and Republicans are missing the essential point about what would work to provide an affordable healthcare system that aligns the incentives of all stakeholders.An essential element is to develop a system that encourages consumers of healthcare to be responsible for their health and have control over their healthcare dollars.

The Senate’s present revision does not consider this. The Senate is considering the needs of the healthcare insurance industry and not the needs of consumers.

The Senate should be considering the following in order to repeal and replace Obamacare.

  1. My Ideal Medical Savings Account should be instituted immediately. It will provide financial incentives for consumers as well and incentives to maintain health.

Self-management of chronic disease is essential for a healthcare system to become affordable. My Ideal Medical Saving Account provides that financial incentive.

1. The Ideal Medical Saving Account will provide instant adjudication of medical care claims.

  1. The ideal Medical Savings Accounts will encourage patient responsibility for their health, the care of their disease and their healthcare dollars.
  2. The Republican Party should establish an organized system of disease management education for persons with chronic disease. The education system should be designed to be an extension of physicians’ care. It should not be a free-standing education system. Physicians should be provided with incentives to set up these educational systems.

http://stanfeld.com/chronic-disease-management-and-education-as-an-extension-of-physicians-care/

  1. A system of social networking with physicians and their patients should be developed. The government could provide the template for physicians and their team.

http://stanfeld.com/social-networks-patient-education-and-the-healthcare-system/

The networks could be physicians to patients networks, patients to patients networks, patients to their physicians’ healthcare team networks. These networks need to be an extension of the physician’s care. All encounters should be imported to the patient’s chart with certain restrictions.

  1. Social networking between physicians should also be developed.
  2. Integrated care systems with generalists to specialists must be developed for both treatment and cost transparency for the physicians and patients.
  1. There must be instant communication between physicians and patient via an effective electronic medical record. The EMR must be a teaching tool for physicians. It must not be a tool to judge physicians’ care and penalize them. The EMR should be cloud based. Maintenance and upgrades should be free and seamless. Physicians should be charged by the click.

http://stanfeld.com/?s=EMRs

  1. Tort Reform is an essential element in a healthcare system that would work and be affordable. It would decrease the cost of over testing. It would also decrease the cost of malpractice insurance and legal fees. These cost are built into the cost of care. The cost of care would be reduced significantly. http://stanfeld.com/?s=tort+reform

The goal of effective healthcare reform should be to align all the stakeholders’ incentives. Patient incentives should be at the center of this alignment.

Align patient 1

Align government

Obamacare did not bother to try to align any of the primary stakeholders’ (patients and physicians) incentives. In fact Obamacare destroyed the patient/physician relationship.

The house bill to repeal and replace Obamacare touches on some alignment.

The senate is fighting about issues that are not significant in aligning all stakeholders’ incentives.

The healthcare system will not be repaired until all the stakeholders’ incentives are aligned. Healthcare policies must be put in place to align those incentives.

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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Trump Is Not the Real Target – You Are

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACP

Many of my readers have been upset by the slowness and the lack of progress from the Republican senate in repealing and replacing Obamacare.

The country is approaching enrollment time for 2018. Insurance companies need to submit available healthcare plans to the health insurance exchanges soon.

Maybe there will be no healthcare plans available for people in the individual healthcare market with pre-existing illness. This will signify total collapse of Obamacare.

Maybe the Republicans are hanging around waiting for the public to realize that there will be insufficient healthcare plans submitted.

Then the Republicans could blame the Democrats for Obamacare’s failure.

Obamacare has failed for all the reasons I have already written about. There is no reason to debate if it has failed. There is also no reason to debate that President Obama’s vision for Obamacare failed.

President Obama and the Democrats are responsible for its failure. Obamacare was an ill conceived healthcare plan that could not be sustainable.

There are plenty of reasons to support the people who might lose insurance. Those people do not include the 12 million new enrollees in Medicaid.

President Trump is not going to touch their insurance.

The 9 million people enrolled with pre-existing illnesses that have signed up for Obamacare on the individual market must be covered with affordable insurance in some way.

There are many more people in this category who do not have insurance under Obamacare because it is unaffordable.

Within the House Republican plan there are provisions for these people.

It is clear that the liberal mainstream media is on the Democrats’ side.

It’s goal is to do everything it can to obstruct President Trump’s agenda and what he promised the American people.

President Trump won the election on his agenda, not on his personality.

It is clear that the mainstream media is against President Trump. A recent study showed that over 80% of articles written in our daily newspapers are negative articles about the Trump administration.

Many of the 20% positive articles have a negative subtext. Many of these negative articles have no basis in fact and have been proven to be untrue.

President Trump uses the words “fake news” because it angers the press and excites his base.

The Democrats are trying to make as many issues as possible treasonous without any basis for the use of the word treason.

In fact they roll out Maxine Waters every day saying President Trump should be impeached without her presenting a single piece of evidence for impeachment.

It should be clear that is a Saul Alinsky tactic. I have not heard one conservative or Republican accuse the Democrats of using Alinsky tactics.

President Obama did many things that were unconstitutional. He was never called out for them with congressional investigation. When the issues were investigated they were all given a pass. I can think of the IRS and Lois Lerner investigation, the attorney general issue, the CIA issue, and most of all the Hilliary Clinton hearing in which she said nothing for nine hours. The press, the congress and the President let her get away with it without at least an indictment.

James Comey of the FBI said she was careless and unindictable.

The other day I received the following article from a reader declaring the target of these attacks is not President Trump.

The target is the voters who want constructive legislation in Washington for the people. The country cannot survive with the corruption and unconstitutional behavior much longer.

Tim Daughtry is a conservative speaker and co-author of Waking the Sleeping Giant: How Mainstream Americans Can Beat Liberals at Their Own Game wrote a beautiful article explaining what is going on.

I have never thought of the establishment game in these terms. I have reprinted Mr. Daughtry’s entire article so that all of us will take a moment “to reexamine out premises” as Ayn Ryan suggested 70 years ago in Atlas Shrugged.

Trump Is Not the Real Target; You Are

Tim Daughtry

“As we watch the daily barrage of accusations and innuendo directed against President Trump by the far left, the liberal media, and even some in his own party, those of us who voted to put him in the Oval Office need to remember one crucial point: President Trump is not the real target.  You are.

Even considering his outsized persona and the stunning phenomenon of an outsider who has never held political office winning the presidency against one of the most powerful political machines in American history, the new movement that elected Donald Trump has never been about Trump. In the 2016 election, the “forgotten men and women of America” were hell-bent to send a message to the powerful elites of both parties.

The message was that the Washington elites are serving themselves and their own agenda and ignoring the rest of the nation.  The message was that Washington has become a swamp of corruption and self-serving collusion among powerful interests and that Main Street America is ready to see that swamp drained. 

Donald Trump was our messenger.

Because his candidacy was not about Trump the man but Trump the messenger, he was able to withstand the smears and assaults of the Clinton Machine that would have sunk any other candidate.  They siphoned all the way to the bottom of their slime barrel, and still the message prevailed. 

That message was simple and grounded in common sense.  No country can survive unless it has control over its borders.  People coming into American should be vetted to make sure that they pose no danger to us.  After eight years of stifling taxes and regulations, we should once again make America a healthy place in which to do business, make products, and create jobs.  Political correctness may seem silly and laughable, but in reality it poses a serious threat to free expression and open exchange of ideas. If it’s terrorism, call it that.  Say what is obvious to our common sense even if it offends the delicate sensibilities of the elite.

Now the denizens of the Washington swamp are sending a message back to the forgotten men and women who voted for Trump and his reforms: “Forget you.” 

The leftists who worked to radically transform the nation under Barack Obama are telling us that they hold the reins of power and that we the people don’t run anything.  They are telling us that their agenda will prevail regardless of how we vote or what we want.  They are telling us that they can subvert, attack, and destroy any messenger that we send into their territory.  And feckless leaders in the GOP seem, at best, more afraid of displeasing the Democrats than betraying their own voters, and, at worst, in cozy collusion with the opposition.

What is at stake in the barrage of innuendo, twisted news, and “investigations” is not just the future of the Trump presidency, but the future of the very idea that governmental power rests ultimately on the consent of the governed.

Of course there is much at stake in the actual policy questions facing the country.  But underneath the debates about border security, court appointees, tax and regulatory policy, and so on lies a deeper question that is at the very heart of our system of government: Can the American people still change the direction of the country if we believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction?  Or will the powerful and self-serving elites impose their agenda even when we don’t consent to it?

When the voters put leftists in power, as they did with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the country moves left.  But when voters try to change course, as we did in the elections of 2010 and 2014, the country still careened towards open borders, government control of healthcare, rule by rogue judges, and lawless license for those in the power elite.

And so we went outside the traditional path and elected Donald Trump in 2016.  The liberal news anchors had barely dried their tears after Election Day when the left began to cloud the real meaning of Trump’s election by pushing the bizarre claim that the Russians had somehow hacked the election.

In their gaslighting version of reality, you didn’t really vote to drain the swamp.  You didn’t really vote to secure our borders.  You didn’t vote to repeal and replace Obamacare and put doctors and patients back in charge instead of Washington bureaucrats.  You didn’t vote to restore rule of law and common sense to Washington.  The Russians somehow threw the election to Trump.  You can go back home now and let the experts run things.

It’s swamp gas.  Don’t breathe it.

There is plenty in Washington that merits investigation, from foreign influence through the Clinton Foundation to Obama’s use of intelligence data for political purposes.  Congress has the power to do just that, but we need to give them the will.

Let’s remind our representatives that they might forget us, but we won’t forget them.”

 

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

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

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What Are The Republicans in the Senate Doing?

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

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

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

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

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

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

The reason is obvious to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Democrats Still Think Americans Are Stupid

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE

The House Republicans finally got their act together and passed their version of the Obamacare repeal and replace act. It seems that many representatives do not trust Paul Ryan, Tom Price and President Donald Trump.

The Republican house version of the bill does not repeal and replace Obamacare completely.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) permitted Kathleen Sibelius, the Secretary of HHS, to issue regulations to administer the act at her discretion. Many of her regulations were destructive to the healthcare system.

Tom Price, the new Secretary of HSS can eliminate many of these destructive regulations. The goal of the Obama administration’s regulations was to cause the healthcare system to fail and be replaced not by free market principals but by a single party payer system.

Her regulations were designed to eliminate any modicum of free choice for patients and physicians.

Tom Price’s actions and regulation eliminations should complete the repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

President Obama ignored the fact that a single party payer system would be destined to bankrupt the country. His plan was to get the health care insurance industry out of the healthcare picture.

The defect in his logic was that the government would have to continue to outsource the administrative services to the healthcare insurance industry. The government now outsources the administrative services for Medicare and Medicaid.

The government then lies to the public declaring that its overhead is only 2.5% while the healthcare insurance industry takes 30% for services that are charged as direct patient care.

The healthcare insurance industry would continue to rip off the healthcare system in a single party payer system for all.

The completion of the repeal and replace act will be done as promised by Ryan, Price and Trump in three stages.

As soon as the house bill is passed the House Democrats came out with their talking points criticizing the act. These talking points had little substance and no compelling evidence. They only declared that the legislation was terrible without any explanation of why it was terrible.

They just said 20 million people are going to lose their insurance coverage. The Republican health care act is going to kill people.

The talking points are mostly lies.

A recent study had reported that Obamacare has cost 80,000 people to die.

“Democrat’s immediately made the accusation that the GOP “repeal and replace” bill will kill Americans.  It seems that Obamacare has already done that.” 

In a previous blog I pointed out that more people have lost insurance in the individual market that have gained insurance from Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges.

Fourteen million lost insurance in the individual market in 2009 and at most 8 million gained insurance through Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges.

The 20 million new insured comes from the 12 million new people receiving healthcare insurance through Medicaid.

“Quoting Oren Cass over at National Review, it turns out that fewer people – not more people – had health insurance after Obamacare.  The only increase in “coverage” was Medicaid, but, sadly, it turns out that Medicaid kills people.  It’s better to have no medical insurance at all.” 

 Researchers have found that in 2015 Medicaid patients experienced worse outcomes than similar uninsured Medicaid eligible patients.

Public-health data from the Centers for Disease Control confirm… [that had mortality continued to decline during ACA implementation in 2014 and 2015 at the same rate as during the 2000-13 period, 80,000 fewer Americans would have died in 2015 alone.”

The Democrats are using the typical progressive tactic of creating a lie. Many people died because of Obamacare but the Democrats threaten that the Republican bill will cost many lives. It diverts attention from the Democrats’ failure with Obamacare.

This is fear mongering for the progressives’ political gain.

This is one of Sol Alinsky’s favorite tactics. One should do everything to marginalize opponents even if it needs to be done by lying.

“Democrats are hurting real people with their scary shrieking about death by Republican.”

The Democrats criticize without facts. The Democrats will lie about the effects of the bill without evidence. I would guess that many have not even read it.

One should expect nothing less from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

The Democrats have even rolled out Jonathan Gruber, the MIT professor of economics and co-author of Obamacare, who infamously said, “the stupidity of the American voter” helped get the measure to become law.

This week Gruber blamed President Trump for Obamacare’s failure on one of the Sunday news programs.

“Whose fault is this (rising premium costs)?” Gruber asked on “Fox News Sunday.” “Since President Trump has been elected … premiums are going up and insurers are exiting.”

This is total nonsense.

Jonathan Gruber still thinks Americans are stupid. However he has no credibility with the American public. Therefore his opinion has no impact on the discussion about the new bill.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s lack of credibility with the American public does not seem to bother them.

Every lie they tell decreases their credibility even further.

Nancy Pelosi said, “the new Obamacare repeal bill is a ‘a very sad, deadly joke’

This is the same woman who said we will not know what is in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) until it is passed.

What is so deadly about it? She does not explain her statement. She figures the media is the message. The media will carry the message for her.

Chuck Schumer’s quote was even worse. He said, “Senate GOP should toss House healthcare bill ‘out the window’”

He called on Senate Republicans,

“To avoid following the lead of their colleagues in the House and to work on a bipartisan basis on healthcare reform rather than pushing for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.”

He is trying to save President Obama’s legacy Obamacare. Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster. It is beyond saving.

It was a poorly constructed healthcare bill aimed at giving big government total control of the healthcare system. President Obama totally ignores the fact that Americans did not want it, have not joined it. He felt he clearly know what is best for America.

He goal was to get it passed by the partisan vote. President Obama lied to Americans and lied to his party members.

Obamacare is unsustainable economically to America and is in the process of destroying the economy.

Chuck Schumer said, “Trumpcare is a giant, broken promise to working people, the hard-working people of this great country of ours.

It would be valid if Chuck Schumer could prove his statement.

President Obama broke his promise to the working people, the hard working people of this great country of ours, when he said, “ If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor and if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance.”

Chuck Schumer did not see it then and he does not see Obamacare’s failure now.

I suggest that Chuck Schumer read the Republican bill carefully before he makes his false statements.

Clearly, he was dead wrong in his judgment about Obamacare

If he read the Obamacare law carefully and voted for doing the right thing, America’s healthcare system might not be in the mess it is in.

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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I Don’t Get The Republican Leadership

Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE

The media and Democrats in congress are stonewalling every initiative President Trump has presented whether or not it has merit. .

The American people have spoken. Donald Trump is President. Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

I should think the Democratic leadership would realize they are not connecting with the people. They should fear for their jobs and the jobs of other party members.

Nancy Pelosi, chair of the House Democrats, said, “We are the opposition party and it is our job to be the opposition.”

She is wrong. The Democrats should be doing what is right for the American people.

Recent elections have proven Americans do not approve of the Democrats’ policies at federal, state or local levels.

President Obama’s Democratic court appointed judges are slapping temporary injunctions on some of President Trump’s executive orders for no logical reasons.

These injunctions are occurring despite the terrorist disruptions that have occurred in American cities.

President Obama and the Democrats did nothing to neither stop this loss of life nor decrease the fear these terrorists generated.

The judges are slowing his initiatives down until they get to higher courts.

Democrats are acting juvenile.

Paul Ryan and the Republican establishment are not helping President Trump fulfill his agenda. They seem to be tripping up President Trump at every turn.

At the same time they are making the Republicans look bad and the Democrats look good.

If some of President Trump’s executive orders need congressional approval the Republican leadership in both houses should start the legislative process to get that congressional approval.

It seems like the Republican establishment is doing everything to make President Trump an ineffectual president.

The Republican establishment is bickering over the fine points of the initiatives. They are not looking at the big picture.

The American public gave the Republicans both houses of congress in order to allow them to be effective. The nuclear option in the senate should guarantee legislative effectiveness.

President Trump has some good ideas to fix the healthcare system and create economic growth.

Paul Ryan is supposed to be a legislative genius.

Paul Ryan seems to be intimidated by the Democrats and the mainstream media. He has not been bold in stepping out and supporting President Trump’s initiatives.

He should realize that the majority of the American public is not paying attention to the mainstream media.

This is reflected in the decrease in readership of the New York Times and the viewership at CNN and MSNBC. The mainstream media should not be influencing Paul Ryan’s actions.

Everything President Obama did during his presidency slowed the economy and polarized the nation. Paul Ryan should be doing the opposite.

Everything President Obama did with Obamacare made the healthcare system less efficient and more dysfunctional. Paul Ryan should have had a Republican consensus plan ready to repeal and replace Obamacare.

It is embarrassing that he did not have a plan ready after seven years.

My advice to the Republican controlled congress is to give President Trump a break and give him some support.

Stop playing politics. You are playing right into the Democrats’ obstructionist hands.

Paul Ryan’s healthcare fiasco is the prime example. He wouldn’t be speaker if it would not for the election of members of the Freedom Caucus.

Paul Ryan should take the bill the house previously passed and send it to the Senate. If there are things in that bill that do not pass the sequestration test for the Senate to pass the bill with 51 votes modify the bill.

Ryan has not made it clear to the public what he thinks is wrong with the old bill. He has also been secretive about the ongoing negotiations to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Now Paul Ryan is delaying President Trump’s wall appropriation request. He seems to be delaying President Trump’s tax cut initiative until 2018 without explanation.

If it is because the healthcare bill is not passed then pass the old healthcare bill.

He and the establishment Republicans confuse me. I think the American people are confused. Maybe the Republican establishment has to be voted out of congress in order to get anything passed.

I believe what President Trump is trying to accomplish is pretty logical. President Obama and the Democrats messed us up over the last eight years.

Many Americans are hurting. Americans who are not hurting do not understand it. Perhaps they refuse to understand it.

It is time government starting working and trying new ideas.

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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Those Indecipherable Medical Bills? Part 2 CPT Coding Is One Reason Health Care Costs So Much

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

After Ms. Wanda Wickizer was discharged from the University of Virginia Healthcare System (Part 1) the catastrophe caused by the healthcare system’s coding process began.

“The acronym HCPCS originally stood for HCFA Common Procedure Coding System, a medical billing process used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).”

“Prior to 2001, CMS was known as the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA).”

HCPCS was established in 1978 to provide a standardized coding system for describing the specific items and services provided in the delivery of health care.

The cost of Medicare and Medicaid became so high that the government decided to start knowing what it was paying for and standardizing the payments.

Such coding is necessary for Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurance programs to ensure that insurance claims are processed in an orderly and consistent manner.”

This coding system has been dysfunctional since the government developed it for Medicare and Medicaid in 1978.

The unspoken goal was to decrease reimbursement for services provided for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The government wanted to commoditize can reduce reimbursement by the evaluation of physician and hospital usage of procedure and services.

Initially, use of the codes was voluntary, but with the implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) use of the HCPCS for transactions involving health care information became mandatory.[2]

Ms. Rosenthal’s story is about how this poor woman, Wanda Wickizer, got trapped in the dysfunction of the healthcare system’s coding system.

Wanda Wickizer should have been insured through Obamacare. However, through the inefficiencies of the government or Ms. Wickizer lack of understanding of Obamacare she did not have insurance.

The healthcare system makes no provisions for billing the uninsured.

There are multiple prices charged for treatments and procedures. Hospital systems and physician groups have their own individual retail prices for services and procedures.

These providers negotiate prices with the government and the healthcare insurance industry.

There are many different prices negotiated by many different providers with the healthcare insurance industry. A healthcare insurance company negotiates many of the government’s final prices. The healthcare insurance company acts as the surrogate for the government.

None of these prices are transparent.

There is no one that negotiates price for the uninsured. The uninsured are responsible for the retail price of the services rendered unless they can negotiate a better price.

“And so in early 2014, without an insurer or employer or government agency to run interference between her and the hospital, she began receiving bills:

  • $16,000 from Sentara Norfolk (not including the scan or the E.R. doctor), $50,000 for the air ambulance.
  • Her local hospital
  • By the end of January, there was also one for $24,000 from the University of Virginia Physicians’ Group: charges for some of the doctors at the medical center. “I thought, O.K., that’s not so bad,” Wickizer recalls.
  • A month later, a bill for $54,000 arrived from the same physicians’ group, which included further charges and late fees.
  • Then a separate bill came just for the hospital’s charges, containing a demand for $356,884.42 but little in the way of comprehensible explanation.”

The uninsured are the only people who are responsible for the original retail prices. All the rest of the payment providers, namely the government and various members of the healthcare insurance industry pay their negotiated fees.

Shouldn’t the government pass a law requiring hospitals and doctors to charge only Medicare prices to the uninsured? It would eliminate Ms. Wickizer bill, a bill that reflects retail prices for services rendered.

The big mistake the University of Virginia made was that it did not provide her with a line item bill identifying the price of each service and procedure.

The University of Virginia subsequently refused to provide a line item bill to the patient. It was as if the university was hiding something.

Any thoughtful hospital administrator would have solved the problem in a minute.

It must be remembered that each provider has a different retail price per procedure and service. The reasoning is that they are trying to collect the highest amount they can.

There is something called a “chargemaster price.” It could help the uninsured figure out the wholesale price for services and procedures if they knew what the line item services and procedures they were charged for were.

The patient could then figure out what Medicare pays for those services and procedures.

However none of these line item charges are in the patients (EOB) Explanation Of Benefits. The EOB is impossible to interpret.

A simple rule should be passed by congress or issued by CMS saying a clear explanation of charges is required for payment of the bill.

The Obama administration knew about this uninsured billing problem. It did nothing about it because it wanted to force patients into buying Obamacare insurance even if they couldn’t afford it or didn’t need it.

I believe Tom Price M.D. (President Trump’s head of CMS) is aware of the problem. He also understands this simple way of solving it.

The healthcare insurance industry and the government get a detailed EOB for services rendered through the CPT coding system first established in 1978.

The Obama administration added 74,000 new codes to the CPT coding system. The government and the insurance companies wanted to know what they were paying for in detail.

This led to the requirement for Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and then meaningful use EMRs. Physicians and hospital systems will not get paid if they do not have a meaningful use EMR this year.

This led to a very expensive EMR development industry. EMRs were expensive. They did not function as meaningful use EMRs. They had to undergo extensive upgrades.

An EMR function should really be a teaching tool, teaching physicians how to upgrade their services to the best evidence based medicine practices.

Instead it has become a tool for the government and the healthcare insurance industry to punish patients.

The EMRs are unaffordable to many physicians. It has force them to sign up to become hospital system employees.

The government should have built a universal EMR in the cloud and charged physicians by the click.

The increase in codes led to an expensive coding industry. People are trained to teach physicians and hospital systems how to use the new 88,00 codes correctly.

The industry essentially teaches those providers how to how to game the healthcare system so that they can collect the most money for their services from the government and the healthcare insurance industry.

The goal of the government is to reduce reimbursement to providers.

Where is the consideration for patients in all of these maneuvers?

Where is the consideration for the uninsured patients?

Ms. Rosenthal’s main point is that CPT gaming by the medical professions and hospital systems are driving up healthcare costs.

However, missing from her argument is who developed the dysfunction CPT system.

Why was it developed?

Why was coding made so complex that it drives users of the coding system to game the system?

Ms. Rosenthat gives a few examples of coding driving the costs up.

  1. The diagnosis code for “heart failure” (ICD-9-CM Code 428) instead of the one for “acute systolic heart failure” (Code 428.21), the difference could mean thousands of dollars.

“In order to code for the more lucrative code, you have to know how it is defined and make sure the care described in the chart meets the criterion, the definition, for that higher number.”

In order to code for “acute systolic heart failure,” the patient’s chart (EMR) ought to include supporting documentation, for example, that the heart was pumping out less than 25 percent of its blood with each beat and that he was given an echocardiogram and a diuretic to lower blood pressure. Submitting a bill using the higher code without meeting criteria could constitute fraud.”

“Each billing, then, can be seen as a battle of provider coder versus payor coder.

The coders who work for hospitals and doctors strive to bring in as much revenue as possible from each service, while coders employed by insurers try to deny claims as overreaching.”

Hospital based physicians are taught how to up-code to generate the most income. They have little say in the coding process. Patients have no way of knowing if a procedure or service is coded.

  1. In a doctor’s office, a Level 3 visit (paid, say, at $175) might be legally transformed into a Level 4 (say, $225) by performing one extra maneuver, like weighing the patient or listening to the lungs, whether the patient’s illness required that or not.
  2. E.R. doctors have been taught that insurers might accept a higher-reimbursed code for the examination and treatment of a patient with a finger fracture (usually 99282) if — in addition to needed interventions — a narcotic painkiller was also prescribed (a plausible bump up to 99283), indicating a more serious condition.

The actual cost and expertize that might go into these services are never discussed or considered by bureaucrats decision and policy makers.

Price transparency for the patients would make a world of difference to costs. It would drive the cost of care and healthcare premiums down.

It might even result in the development of competitive pricing and a free market system.

I am sure the Trump administration is aware of this defect in the dysfunctional healthcare system.

President Obama ignored the problem as he tried to control hospital systems and physicians. He simply down coded services.

He probably figured that a single payer system would make everything much easier.

All I can say is look at the government run Veteran Administration Healthcare System.

Why most politicians ignore the coding defect in coding is beyond me?

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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Those Indecipherable Medical Bills? CPT Coding Is One Reason Health Care Costs So Much: Part 1

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

Elisabeth Rosenthal is editor in chief of Kaiser Health News and a former senior writer at The New York Times.

She wrote an extensive article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine Section on the abuse of a hospital system on a patient without healthcare insurance.

Ms. Rosenthal usually points out defects in the healthcare system in great detail. She usually ignores the primary causes of those defects which leads to stakeholders’ adjustments.

Those adjustments lead to abuses of both the healthcare system and consumers utilizing the healthcare system.

It is important for all consumers and politicians (designated surrogates of consumers) to understand these abuses in detail.

It is doubly important that consumers and politicians understand the primary causes for these abuses.

The ideal goal would be to fix the primary causes so that stakeholders cannot abuse the system. In Ms. Rosenthal’s case study the University of Virginia’s bureaucrats are the decision makers who are far removed from the primarily medical care of patients.

They are far removed from the development of a physician/patient relationship. The patient/physician relationship is so vital to the success of a healthcare system.

These bureaucrats are immune to the tragedy that had befallen Ms. Rosenthal’s example, Ms. Wanda Wickizer. They are stuck in the rules its organization made or their interpretation of these rules.

There does not seem to be any flexibility built into the University of Virginia’s Medical School billing system.

The patient in Ms. Rosenthal story is not entirely immune to the disaster that occurred subsequently.

Her husband died in 2006. He had great city of Norfolk Virginia health insurance. The city of Norfolk continued providing her and her kids with insurance for the next three years.

“Her husband, who died in 2006, worked for the city of Norfolk, which insured their family while he was alive and for three years beyond.”

“After his death, Wanda Wickizer worked in a series of low-wage jobs, but none provided health insurance. A minor pre-existing condition — she was taking Lexapro, a common medicine for depression — meant that her only insurance option was to obtain Obamacare insurance through a health insurance exchange in 2010.

In 2009 only ineffective and costly state administered “high-risk pools” were available. High risk pools disappeared in 2010 with the passage of Obamacare.

She said she could not afford her Obamacare option. However, she did not consider the Obamacare option in her economic condition. Obamacare would have subsidized her insurance coverage up to 100%.

“She thought she would need to pay more than $800 per month for a policy with a $5,000 deductible, and her medical procedures would then be reimbursed at 80 percent. She felt she couldn’t afford that.”

She made a decision that did not take into account a potential medical catastrophe.

“In 2011, she decided to temporarily stop working to tend to her children, which qualified them for Medicaid; with trepidation, she left herself uninsured.”

At this point she probably would, also, have qualified for Medicaid or gotten insurance through the health insurance exchanges that would have been subsidized up to 100% by Obamacare.

Additionally, after she was sick she could have applied for Obamacare insurance. She would have supposedly received full insurance coverage at no cost to her. The application for Obamacare after the onset of an illness is one of the major objections to Obamacare.

This is a defect in Ms. Rosenthal’s story. It could have easily been avoided if Ms. Wickizer applied for insurance available to her at minimal charge.

The casual reader of the Sunday NYT magazine section could easily overlook this defect.

The rest of the story is about the billing catastrophe. Ms. Rosenthal exposes all the defects in the healthcare billing system structure.

A catastrophic illness struck Wanda Wickizer on Christmas Day 2013. It was a subarachnoid hemorrhage that can strike at any time.

“The catastrophe struck Wanda Wickizer on Christmas Day 2013.”

It occurred four years after Obamacare was enacted. She had a debilitating headache. The ambulance paramedics missed the diagnosis. They thought she had food poisoning and did not take her to the hospital.

Later, she, at 3 a.m. became confused and groggy. Her boyfriend raced her to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. A CAT scan revealed a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital felt it could not handle the subarachnoid hemorrhage and air evacuated her by helicopter to University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville 160 miles away.

At UVM the hemorrhage was stopped and the previous accumulation of blood evacuated. She was in the hospital for 3 weeks. When she was home the catastrophe of the healthcare system coding process began.

Ms. Wanda Wickzer’s story will be continued in Part 2 of Those Indecipherable Medical Bills? CPT Coding Is One Reason Health Care Costs So Much

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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