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EMRs Real Politics.

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE


Dr. Jerome Groopman and Dr.Pamela
Hartzmen uncovered the real politics of EMRs.
 They are both on the staff of Beth
Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and on the faculty of Harvard Medical

 Dr. Groopman wrote a best seller “How
Doctors Think.”

In a Wall Street
Journal article they wrote,

 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

Dr. Groopman and Pamela Hartzman debunk the 2005 RAND study. The
RAND EMR study of 2005 led to President Obama’s belief that EMRs will save $81
billion dollars a year for the healthcare system.

Groopman and Hartzman show that there is little evidence to
support the president’s belief.

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.

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.

Dr. Groopman claims the RAND study is self-serving to EMR software
companies that sponsored the study.


Healthcare Solutions
, the Cerner Corporation and Epic Systems of Verona, Wis. are the major EMR software companies.

 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.

“But today, as doctors and hospitals struggle to make new records
systems work, the clear winners are big companies like Allscripts that lobbied
for that legislation and pushed aside smaller competitors.”

At Allscripts Healthcare
solutions, annual sales have more than doubled from $548 million in 2009 to an
estimated $1.44 billion last year.

At the Cerner Corporation of Kansas City, Mo., sales rose 60 percent during that

“Current and former industry executives say that
big digital records companies like Cerner, Allscripts and Epic Systems of
Verona, Wis., have reaped enormous rewards because of the legislation they
pushed for.”

Unfortunately, many of the
EMR systems bought by large hospital systems and physician practices are not
fully functional. They do not fit the administration’s criteria of meaningful-use
EMRs. These EMRs are requiring additional hospital systems and physicians;
practices outlays of cash to make them fully functional.

City-based Pain Clinic of Northwest FL filed a purported class action lawsuit
on Dec. 20, 2012 against Chicago-based Allscripts (NASDAQ: MDRX).

“The purported class action
lawsuit says that about 5,000 small group physicians were sold an EMR called
MyWay from 2009 until late last year, when the company stopped supporting the

“The company was also hit with
a federal shareholder class action securities fraud lawsuit in the Northern
Illinois District last year over allegations that it misled investors about the
performance of its EHR programs.”

 The MyWay EMR cost about $40,000
per physician. ThePain Clinic of Northwest Florida claims it was misled by
Allscripts Healthcare Solution.  The
Clinic stated that MyWay has “shortcoming
and inherent defects,”  

complaint says Allscripts was unable to obtain “meaningful use” bonus status
for MyWay because of the problems with the program. The lawsuit claims that

 “Allscripts has been unjustly enriched by
retaining the money paid by MyWay purchasers and users without delivering an
EHR software product that performs as it was intended to work,”

 These costs are always
passed on to the consumer
. Drs. Groopman and Hartzman  go on to say,

president and his health-care team have yet to address these difficult and
pressing issues.

 Our culture adores technology, so it is not
surprising that the electronic medical record has been touted as the first
important step in curing the ills of our health-care system.

this notion is an overly simplistic and unsubstantiated part of the solution.

It is important to note Drs. Groopman and Hartzman’s total
and refreshing frankness.

“We both voted
for President Obam
a, in part because of his pragmatic approach to problems,
belief in empirical data, and openness to changing his mind when those data
contradict his initial approach to a problem”.

We need the
president to apply
scientific rigor to fix our
health-care system rather than rely on elegant exercises in wishful thinking.”

Please note that Drs. Groopman and Hartzman said it not

a new study The RAND Corp has backed off on its 2005 study earlier this year
and withdrew its estimate of saving to the healthcare system of $81 billion
dollars annually.

In the
RAND Corp’s view, the disappointing performance of health IT to date can be
largely attributed to several factors:


  1.  “Sluggish
    adoption of health IT systems
  2.   Coupled
    with the choice of systems that are neither interoperable nor easy to use;
  3.   The
    failure of health care providers and institutions to reengineer care processes
    to reap the full benefits of health IT.
  4.  We
    believe that the original promise of health IT can be met if the systems are
    redesigned to address these flaws by creating more-standardized systems that
    are easier to use,
  5.  EMR are
    truly interoperable,
  6.  Afford patients more access to and control
    over their health data.
  7.  Providers must do their part by reengineering
    care processes to take full advantage of efficiencies offered by health IT, in
    the context of redesigned payment models that favor value over volume.”


It should not be a blame game.

General Electric sponsored this new RAND study.  It is important to note that GE is a major
Allscripts competitor.

There is true value in the EMRs to patient care. However the
focus of the marketing and development is on the wrong customer.

The RAND still does not get it. Perhaps
it does not want to get it.

EMRs should be for the benefit of physicians and their
patients. It must be at a price physicians can afford to pay. It should not be
for the benefit of the government, the healthcare insurance industry and
hospital systems.

It should be a tool to
continually educate physicians and patients. It should not be a tool used by
secondary stakeholders to penalize physicians and patients.

Patients and physicians control My Ideal Electronic Medical
Record. It should be seriously considered to achieve the maximum benefit of EMRs’

I believe it would be of value to interested readers to go
to this link.

 Those articles will
not only describe the problems with EMRs, problems which I have predicted and are
now recognized. These articles will also outline real  solutions to having universal adoption of

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

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Health Policy Wonks Confused By Physicians Resistance To Adopting Electronic Medical Records (EMRs).

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE


Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) for physicians’ offices and hospital systems could be great for patients’ care and physicians’ education. Remember, patients and physicians are the primary stakeholders in the healthcare system.

If the deployment of EMRs were directed toward the benefit of patients and physicians, they would be more readily adopted. If they were used to teach physicians how to be better doctors and patients to be more educated about their disease physicians would accept EMR’s more readily.

Instead, the fully functional EMR is designed to be punitive to physicians and patients. 

President Obama’s motives are obvious to me. He wants to have total control over the healthcare system. Obamacare will be punitive to physicians, hospital systems and patients when fully implemented. The fully functional EMR will be a principle tool.

The government has tried to spin the news about EMR adoption.

 “The most recent CDC data would seem encouraging for EMR adoption. It claims EMR use has finally been adopted by 50% of physicians and hospital systems.”

Actually less than 11% of physicians and hospital systems have adopted fully functional EMRs. The fully functional EMR is so vital to President Obama and his Healthcare Reform Act and government control over the healthcare system.

If the VA systems’ EMR and the Kaiser systems’ EMR were excluded, the percentage is lower than 11%. The administrations of the VA system and the Kaiser system have full control over how medical care is delivered in their system.

Their computer system’s purpose is to direct physicians’ care and tell them what they can and cannot do.

A  “fully functional EMRs mean the payers’ (government or healthcare insurance company) can have full control over the physician’s work-flow.  A fully functional EMR along with 68,000 ICD-10 codes (vs. 18,000 codes in ICD-9) and adoption of the 5010 billing system would put the government in full control of patient care.

I do not think physicians and hospital systems have fully thought out President Obama’s fully functional EMR.

They know from their installation of non-functional EMRs that EMRs are disruptive to workflow at first. They know EMRs do not increase their quality of care and have not decreased the cost of their care.

 A major reason for non-adoption is physicians and hospital systems cannot afford the $60,000 per physician for a fully functional EMR plus the annual maintenance and services fees.

The government is using a carrot and stick to get physicians to adopt the fully functioning EMR.

The stick is the threat of decreasing physician reimbursement if they do not adopt the EMR.

“Important! For 2015 and later, Medicare eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and CAHs that do not successfully demonstrate meaningful use will have a payment adjustment in their Medicare reimbursement. 

The carrot is President Obama’s $19 billion dollar  meaningful use incentive program. His meaningful use incentive program will not come close to paying for a functioning EMR.

Eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 over five years under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. There's an additional incentive for eligible professionals who provide services in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HSPA).

Eighty-eight hundred dollars a year for 5 years will not hack it when you have to pay at least $60,000 upfront. The only way it will work is if the government had the ability to take away a physician’s license to practice medicine if they did not comply with the government’s wishes.

President Obama included funding for this program in his economic stimulus package (trick play) and not toward the cost of Obamacare.  

Why? If deployed the meaningful use incentive program is a key element in its ability to control physicians’ behavior and judgment. It will restrict also patients’ access to care.

 Jonathan Bush, the Founder-CEO of AthenaHealth (a major EMR supplier)  said,

 “It’s healthcare information technology’s version of cash-for-clunkers,” and because it is actually all about control.”

 “The goal of EMRs is to wrestle control of healthcare away from the doctor-patient relationship into the hands of third parties who can then implement their policies by simply removing a button or an option in the EMR.”

 If a treatment option is not available in the computer program physicians can’t select it.  If the appeal process is difficult and time consuming the tendency for physicians is to not fight the system.

Patients will only be able to get the healthcare that they “qualify” for according to a bureaucracy and a non-elected committee. (IPAB)

Physicians will become the instrument of government rationing of care by the use of a fully functioning EMR.

It will eliminate physicians’ need to think. It will destroy the physician patient relationship. It will increase the cost of running the practice and in turn the cost of medical care.

The ideal fully functioning EMR should be provided free to physicians and hospital systems. The software should be cloud based with physicians having the option to own the data or keep it stored privately in their offices.

It should be a teaching tool for physicians and not a tool that threatens punitive actions if physicians do not get the coding right.

Most physicians might not have consciously thought out the threat to their clinical judgment and the physician patient relationships. They nevertheless subconsciously feel something is wrong.

Once President Obama understands this reasoning he might understand the resistance of the medical community.

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

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Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) And President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Package

 Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

President Obama’s has created an incentive program to encourage physicians to adopt functional Electronic Medical Records.  The program’s $27 billion dollars (funded by President Obama’s Economic Stimulus package) will turn out to be a colossal failure and a waste of money.

Twenty seven billion dollars would provide $44,000 for 640,000 physicians. After the bureaucratic infrastructure is built the federal government will be lucky if one third of the money remains for bonuses to physicians.

Only 21,000 of 650,000 (3%) of physicians have applied to date.

 Complex bureaucracies and complicated regulations never save money. These bureaucracies create bigger government, inconsistent policies, more complicated regulations and inefficiencies.

The best and cheapest way to create a universally accepted and functional EMR is for the federal government to put the software in the cloud and charge physicians by the click for the use of the Ideal Medical Record.

Upgrades in software to the Ideal Medical Record will be swift , inexpensive and instantly adopted.

The federal government has done it before with an electronic billing system in the 1980’s. The incentive to physicians was to be paid in one week as opposed to the one to two months wait for payment using a paper claim.

Last week the proposed rules for defining “meaningful use” of EMRs starting in 2013 were published.

As soon as Stage 2 of President Obama’s EMR bonus program were published organized medicine complained that the rules were unrealistic and onerous.

Organized medicine is correct.  This usually happens when the bureaucracy piles one set of rules on top of another. The Stage 2 rules will discourage physicians from participating even at the threat of an undisclosed penalty.

 "Meaningful Use Workgroup Rules Regarding Meaningful Use Stage 2," from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology requires the following in order to be eligible for the federal bonus;

Higher thresholds (in % of eligible patients, visits or orders)

  • Use computerized physician order entry (CPOE) (from 30% to 60%:
  • CPOE will expand from drug orders to lab and radiology orders)
  • Use e prescribing (from 40% to 50%)
  • Record demographics (from 50% to 80%)
  • Record vital signs (from 50% to 80%)
  • Record smoking status (from 50%to 80%)
  • Use medication reconciliation (from 50% to 80%)

Elective to mandatory requirements

  • Implement drug formulary checks
  • Record existence of advance directives
  • Incorporate lab results as structured data
  • Generate patient lists for specific conditions
  • Send patient reminders
  • Provide summaries of care record
  • Submit immunization data
  • Submit syndromic surveillance data

New measures

  • Use electronic physician notes
  • Offer clinical encounter information for download
  • Offer health record information for download
  • Ensure patient use of online portal
  • Ensure patient use of secure messaging
  • Record patient preferences for communication medium
  • Provide lists of care team members
  • Record longitudinal care plans


Physicians can receive bonuses from Medicare of $44,000 and Medicaid of up to 63,750 for installing and using an eligible EMR system.  These payments (bonus) if you qualify are taxable as ordinary income.

There are several practical problems;

1. Most physicians and physician practices cannot afford the time it takes to find an eligible EMR they can trust.

2. An EMR that might be eligible for federal bonus could cost $70,000 per physician.

3. Physicians cannot visualize the potential payback.

4. Physicians cannot visualize the added value toward improving quality care when quality care has not been adequately defined.

5.Physicians cannot get loans from banks to finance the costs.

6.Most physicians are uncertain about the future of their practices.

Thousands of physicians (3%) are trying to meet stage 1 requirements, which went into effect January 2011.

Eligible EMRs in Stage 1 must be able to meet 15 core measures of functionality and the physician's choice of five out of 10 elective measures.

In order to meet Stage 2 requirements physicians have to spend more money to upgrade their information system to be eligible.

"Unrealistic stage 2 requirements will overly burden physicians and hamper adoption — especially for those physicians in small or solo practice."

Karen Bell, MD, chair of Certification Commission for Health Information Technology said she “does not believe any vendor's system can meet stage 2 requirements yet.”

Developing EMR technology is expensive, and vendors don't want to build complete systems when the standards probably will change in the future.

A Family Practice Group of 4 physicians in Georgia recently spent $75,000 per physician upgrading the practice's EMR in order to meet meaningful use stage 1 requirements. Five years ago they spent $200,000 to launch their original EMR.

Fulfilling stage 2 requirements will probably cost at least another $75,000 per physician to continue qualifying for federal bonuses.

This Family Practice is chasing its own tail. It is working at the whim of a bureaucracy whose job it is to write regulations and not think of the consequences to practicing physicians.

Wouldn’t it be easier for the federal government to install its approved software in the cloud, upgrade it as necessary and charge physicians by the click?

Wasting $27 on bureaucratic regulations is a complicated mistake that is destined to fail.

$27 billion dollars could be better spent on direct patient care and the implementation of my ideal Electronic Medical Record   


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








Will MSA’s Encourage EMRs? Part 2

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

There is no shortage of opinions about the value of EMRs. There are a lot of intelligent people writing about the advantages and disadvantages of the Electronic Medical Record.

No one has figured out how to break the physician resistance barrier. If someone would develop an EMR that would add value to the advantage of the physician and the patient, utilizing an easy learning curve, I think the universal EMR would spread like wildfire.

First, we need an enlightened and respected leader who could force the healthcare system to face its problems, namely the inefficient costs of administration, price opacity, lack of systems of care for chronic disease, and the lack patient control of their healthcare dollar.

The inefficiencies of administration of the healthcare system by facilitator stakeholders waste $150 billion dollars a year. I can understand why a facilitator stakeholder such as an insurance company or hospital resists eliminating this waste. There is a large profit margin in waste. In order to protect this income generating inefficiency, multiple excuses and barriers to fixing the waste are constructed. These stakeholders always seem to blame the physicians and the patients for the waste.

The following two comments from nationally prominent physicians sum up the problem and perceptions about EMR of most physicians.

The first comment is from a nationally prominent specialist who at one time was the head of a 300 physician multi-specialty IPA (Independent Practice Association). He subsequently headed a large single specialty group of physicians. He had start up experience with EMRs in both practice groups. His view is cynical but in my opinion accurate.

The EMR is expensive awkward technology. EPIC possibly the most widely developed (in part owned by Kaiser I believe) is not user friendly, requires much administrative support and has so many bells and whistles that users empirically incorporate their own mini user protocols, essentially defeating the purpose. I disagree that physicians are particularly computer literate and believe that cost and the fact the technology is still awkward and non-standardized is a barrier. Someone is going to need to underwrite or give physicians the technology, and it better not be the VA EMR which Medicare was at one time proposing to roll out. Of course, if the technology is provided, the giver will want to be able to puts its nose under the tent and gain information, consistent with HIPPA’s provisions.
Will EMR improve patient care and safety? No question it will but I suspect it will take 25 years. Will it generate information that may or may not result in physician disincentives, possibly? Very difficult for me to believe EMR will ultimately result in benefit as defined by current vendors. New generations of physician users, however, may believe there is benefit and be unaware of the coexistence of physician disincentives.”

Those developing EMRs should pay attention. No one has developed an easy to use and inexpensive EMR. No one has explained the multiple values of the EMR measurement. Only negative and costly experiences linger. The key questions not asked are who the real customers, and what do the customers really need. In the mind of most EMR vendors the hospital, government, insurance industry are the real customer. These are the stakeholders that have the money. Physicians and patients do not have the money to invest in an EMR.

I was told this 12 years ago by the head of the medical informatics division of a large corporation. I told him his focus in my opinion was dead wrong. I predicted and his EMR would fail. It has not succeeded although they have generated some very painful experiences for all the stakeholders.

The healthcare system needs the development of an EMR that will satisfy the needs of the physician and the patient. It must be user friendly and augment rather than hinder the physicians daily work flow. The EMR can not be punishing nor have a steep learning curve.

An ideal EMR would be one we did not buy. The needs of the physician and patient would be clearly defined. The EMR would be paid for by the click, just as you pay a credit card company for adjudicating a purchase. There is no reason the patients insurance claim could not be adjudicated immediately with a credit card. The physicians would not have to pay for endless upgrades and improved interfaces. The EMR vendors would pay for their mistakes, not us. There would be continuous quality improvement in the software system at no up front cost to the user. The system would be a heavily encrypted web based system for privacy. The patient would own their own data. It would be totally portable. The more the physician uses the EMR and its financial packages the more the physician pays for its use. The patients’ electronic medical record would have to be connected to the patients’ financial history in order to evaluate medical outcomes appropriately. EMR’s will not succeed until some creative vendor realizes this and can get over his own bureaucratic hierarchy. There should be no penalty to abandon an EMR that does not work well for the patient or the physician.

The second note is from another prominent leader in medicine. He is describing the core of the problem in the healthcare system. Until we abandon our legacy systems designed to protect facilitators stakeholders’ vested interests, we are not going to get anywhere in repairing the healthcare system. We will continue to generate million dollar plus salaries for insurance company CEOs and hospital administrators who add no value to the medical care system.

My own opinion is that, until our government guarantees adequate health care access and cost/coverage to all Americans and requires transportability of medical records for all without casting the cost for this onto the physicians, we will continue to have the same mess we now have.”

I do not think Nancy Pelosi has a clue about what needs to be done. Remember, the government is not going to solve our problems. The primary stakeholders (the patients and physicians) must solve our problems.

The government’s job is to create the conditions for patients to be responsible purchasers of healthcare with their own money in a totally price transparent environment. Then, and only then will price and quality competition take place among physicians and hospitals as well. At that time, adoption of an EMR to increase efficiency, decrease expenses and increase quality will make sense to physicians and hospitals. The EMR will be driven by the patient demanding a lower cost vendor in a price transparent environment with improved quality of care. The ideal MSA would encourage the use of the ideal EMR.


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.


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

Copywrite 2006-2019

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How Can I Be So Misinterpreted?


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.

  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.

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.

  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.

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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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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President-elect Trump: Part 6

Stanley Feld M.D.FACP, MACE

There has been no mention of the importance of tort reform in your proposal to replace Obamacare. President Obama made no mention of tort reform either.

Without medical malpractice reform your administration will not be able to reduce the cost of healthcare and increase the quality of medical care.

It is very difficult to institute malpractice reform. It is in direct opposition to the vested interest of plaintiffs’ malpractice attorneys and malpractice insurance companies. These two group have very powerful lobbies.

I have estimated that there is at least one trillion dollars of waste in our healthcare system because of over-testing, over-treating and over diagnosing as a result of the threat of malpractice lawsuits.

Malpractice insurance and the time and money spent in litigation has to be include in the one trillion dollar estimate. Ezekiel Emanual M.D., Obamacare architect, proposed an artificial threshold of significant cost savings in order to form a policy.

“ A useful threshold for savings is 1 percent of costs of healthcare, which comes to $26 billion a year. Anything less is simply not meaningful.”

One percent is arbitrary. It permits Dr. Emanuel to dismiss problems that cost the healthcare system less than $26 billion a year.

The validity of the data collection is of no concern to Dr. Emanuel. He says only $1.3 billion results in malpractice costs. He ignores over testing, and lawsuit costs.

He said,

“Health care spending in the United States typically increases by about $100 billion per year. Cutting a billion here or there from something that large is undetectable and meaningless.

 In health care, you have to be talking about tens of billions of dollars before you are talking about real money.

Dr. Emanuel has no difficulty in producing fake data to make his point to the unknowing.

 A study, closer to truth than just an opinion, disclosed:

The truth is a full accounting reveals that more than 10 percent of America’s health expenditures per year are spend on tort liability and defensive medicine.

This study concludes that $242 billion a year extra is spent because of the lack of tort reform.

The $242 billion is well above Dr. Emanuel’s fictitious threshold.

“Much of this waste is generated or justified by the fear of legal consequences that infects almost every health care encounter. The legal system terrorizes doctors. Fear of possible claims leads medical professionals to squander billions in unnecessary tests and procedures.

Physicians and nurses are afraid to speak candidly to patients about errors. They try to explain the risk reward ratio of treatments for fear of assuming legal liability. The result is the practice of defensive medicine and over testing to cover every possible contingency.

This legal anxiety is also corrosive to the therapeutic magic of the physician patient relationship.

It would be relatively easy to create new rules that would provide a reliable system of justice for patients harmed by medical treatments and procedures without encouraging costly litigation.

A new and effective tort reform system would decrease the costs of defensive medicine significantly. It would encourage physicians to use of clinical judgment rather than expensive tests. It would improve physician/patient relationships.

“ The good news is that it would be relatively easy to create a new system of reliable justice, one that could support broader reforms to contain costs.”

Everyone makes mistakes in every walk of life. The medical legal liability threat could result in further unnecessary errors. Physicians, nurses and hospitals are advised not to offer explanations about mistakes. Sometimes errors are concealed to avoid a legal ordeal. The hidden error could be compounded by additional mistakes.

“Even in ordinary daily encounters, an invisible wall separates doctors from their patients. As one pediatrician told me, “You wouldn’t want to say something off the cuff that might be used against you.”

There are cost multipliers created as mistrust accelerates between the patients and physicians. You would like physicians to adopt electronic medical records. Some physicians avoid using EMRs because the information could be misinterpreted and used against them.

The Electronic Medical Record available through hospitals systems or standalone physician practices is used by the government and the insurance industry to verify the treatment in order to guarantee treatment is best practice treatment.

Physicians are producing cut and paste reports to cover best practice observation by a third party rather than the actual encounter with the patient in order to avoid reimbursement penalty or possible liability.

There is an increasing use of second opinions. Every medical problem is requiring multiple unnecessary laboratory tests to rule out something that might have been missed in the evaluation of patients in order to avoid malpractice suits.

An example is a CAT scan done in Emergency Rooms for the slightest head trauma.

“Medical cases are now decided jury by jury, without consistent application of medical standards.

 According to a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, around 25 percent of cases where there was no identifiable error resulted in malpractice payments.

 The malpractice insurance companies want to settle the malpractice claims before the court charges mount.

“Nor is the system effective for injured patients — according to the same studies, 54 cents of every dollar paid in malpractice cases goes to administrative expenses like lawyers, experts and courts.”

These are some of the major tort reform issues that must be addressed in effectively.

They must be addressed to decrease wasteful expenditures in the healthcare system.

Malpractice lawsuits have been a growth industry for defense attorneys. The malpractice suits have also been a tremendous psychological and economic burden for physicians who have to defend themselves.

Politically is has been a tremendous economical burden to the healthcare system. In the past politicians have refused to acknowledge the economic burden to the healthcare system.

Malpractice reform is a threat to the vested interests of the defense attorneys and malpractice insurance companies.

Malpractice reform is essential to any meaningful healthcare reform.

President-elect Trump the big question is.

“Do you have the will and the courage to take on the plaintiff attorneys and the malpractice insurance industry in order to correct the medical tort reform system?”

 Effective Malpractice reform must treat both injured patients and physicians fairly.


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

 All Rights Reserved © 2006 – 2015 “Repairing The Healthcare System” Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

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