Category Archives: Hospital Fees

A Deeper Dive into Medical Cost Rising for Lost-Time Claims

It is said, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I have ten pictures, courtesy of NCCI’s Barry Lipton’s presentation on that subject.

It was brought to my attention by my fellow blogger, James Moore, of J&L Risk Management Consultants. I met James back in February at the NCCI 2017 Data Education Program in West Palm Beach.

Mr. Lipton is the Senior Actuary and Practice Leader, and his presentation was called, “Medical Cost Trends Then and Now.

Yesterday’s posts regarding the slight increase in the average medical costs for lost-time claims only scratched the surface of the subject. I hope this post will dive deeper into it, so that we can see the whole picture.

In my first post from yesterday, “Slight Increase in Average Medical Costs for Lost-Time Claims, Part 1”, I discussed how physician costs and prescription drug costs impacted medical costs for lost-time claims.

On the issue of physician costs, Mr. Lipton showed that there was a decline in the 2015 medical payments per claim due to physician costs, but as the following chart proves, despite this decline, physician costs contribute a larger share of the total costs.

Chart 1.

Chart 6.

Source: NCCI Annual Issues Symposium 2017

According to James, the main reason for the reduction in costs is the physician utilization per claim. Even though it is only a3% reduction, it is significant, James says, in a time of upward spiraling medical costs. Chart 2 bears this out.

Chart 2.

Chart 7.

Source: NCCI Annual Issues Symposium 2017

The second part of my post yesterday, “Slight Increase in Average Medical Costs for Lost-Time Claims, Part 2”, looked at the steady rise of the average medical cost for lost-time claim.

If we compare the chart from yesterday’s post to the one Mr. Lipton presented, we will see that his chart does show increases and decreases over time in the average medical costs per lost-time claim, but my chart indicates that ever since 1995, it has been rising steady.

Both charts, do show that the average medical cost per lost-time claim is hovering around $30,000, and if the numbers are consistent with ones for earlier years, represents almost 60% of the total claims cost.

My Chart.

Chart 2.

Chart 3.

Chart 4.

Source: NCCI Annual Issues Symposium 2017

To examine this in greater detail, Mr. Lipton broke down the Accident Years into three separate periods and slides, to show the change in medical cost per lost-time claim. He compared the change in Personal Health Care (PHC) Spending per Capita with the Medical Cost per Lost-Time Claim.

In the period, 1995-2002, the average growth rate (AGR) for WC was 9%, and the AVG for PHC was 6%. In the next period, 2002-2009, WC AGR was 6%; PHC AGR was 5%, and finally, in the last period, 2009-2015, the WC AGR was 1%, while the PHC AGR was 3%, as seen in chart 4.

Chart 4.

Chart 10.

Source: NCCI Annual Issues Symposium 2017

To understand what was driving the decline in Accident Year 2015, Mr. Lipton identified six different drivers, as indicated in chart 5.

Chart 5.

Chart 8.

Source: NCCI Annual Issues Symposium 2017

Finally, Mr. Lipton discussed how hospital costs contributed to medical cost per lost-time claims by highlighting the difference between inpatient and outpatient costs, which are rising.

The following chart looks at the four years prior to the 2016 Accident Year, 2012-2015.

Chart 6.

Chart 9.

Source: NCCI Annual Issues Symposium 2017

In 2012, Hospital Inpatient Paid per Stay amounted to $19,514, in 2013, it rose to $22,944 (18% increase), in 2014, it was $24,558, or a 7% increase, and last, in 2015, it was $25,320, or 3% increase over the previous year.

As for Hospital Outpatient Paid per Visit, the number are considerably lower for each year when compared to Inpatient Stays, but nonetheless have been rising.

So perhaps this, at the end is why the average medical cost per lost-time claim has been rising over a period of over twenty years, from 1995 to 2015.

I wrote to James last night when I saw his recent posts on this presentation, and he responded that we are both correct in our analysis, but looking at it from different points of view.

My conclusion after reading this presentation and my discussion with James suggests to me that there are two things going on here. One, when a worker is injured and receives medical care, unless and until he or she goes to a hospital, the best way to lower costs is through what James calls one of his six keys to reducing workers’ comp costs. One of those keys is medical control by the employer, which James said reduced cost by 75%.

But I also realized that when an injured worker goes to the ER or an Ambulatory Service Center as an Outpatient, has an Inpatient stay, that this is where the medical costs go up.

Naturally, Workers’ Comp medical spending is only a fraction of the overall health care spend of the US, and as costs for health care in general rise, so too does costs in workers’ comp.

So, while many have argued or shown that they can lower costs on the front end, from time of injury to return to work for most claims where no surgery is required, one of the largest reasons for the steady rise in the average medical cost per lost-time claims is hospital costs.

On this, both James and I agree. However, it is important that many in the industry see this as well. Keep thinking that it will change by doing this or that has not worked, the numbers prove that. Maybe it is time for something out of the box.

Models, Models, Have We Got Models!

FierceHealthcare.com today reported that CMS (those lovely folks with all them rules), launched three new policies Tuesday that continue the push toward value-based care, rewarding hospitals that work with physicians and other providers to avoid complications, prevent readmissions and speed recovery.

The newly finalized policies are meant to improve cardiac and orthopedic care, and also create an accountable care organization (ACO) track for small practices, according to the report.

There will be three new cardiac care payment models for hospitals and clinicians who treat patients  for heart attacks, heart surgery to bypass blocked coronary arteries, or cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack or heart surgery.

Federal officials said that the cost of their care…varied by 50% across hospitals and the share of patients readmitted to the hospital within 30 days also varied by 50%. Medicare, the article points out, spent more than $6 billion in 2014 for care provided to 200,000 Medicare patients who were hospitalized for heart attack treatment or underwent bypass surgery.

As for orthopedic care, the new payment model is for physicians and hospitals that provide care to patients who receive surgery after a hip fracture, other than hip replacement.

They also finalized updates to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model, which began earlier this year.

So far, that’s three models. But wait, there are more where those came from.

There’s the new Medicare ACO Track 1+ Model, that has a more limited downside risk than other tracks in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (another model I discussed a while back in the post, “Shared Savings ACO Program reaps the most for Primary-care Physicians“).

These new five-year models provide clinicians with other ways to qualify for a 5% incentive payment through the Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) path under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and the Quality Payment Program. (three more models — so many, in fact, I am losing count)

Why am I pointing out the problem with the release of new payment models?

I’ll tell you why. When I began my MHA (Masters in Health Administration) degree program, I took an online elective on Healthcare Quality. The textbook we read discussed how CMS over a period of several decades, created and instituted so many models and programs, that it made me wonder why our health care system was so complex, expensive and so out of whack compared to health care systems of other industrialized countries.

The answer was simple. Too many models, programs, rules, and so on that only gum up the works and make real reform not only impossible, but even more remote a possibility as more of these inane models are added to what is already a broken system.

Winston Churchill said that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after all the other things were tried. We are still on the trying part, and I am afraid we will never get to where Sir Winston said we would.

 

A Hospital Bill We Can All Appreciate

Recently, a friend of mine received a hospital bill from a hospital they stayed at in Spain after suffering a life-threatening condition that kept her in the country longer than she expected.

The bill for her DVT/PE included a Chest x-ray, CT of the lungs and 2 nights of observation. The total in Euros was 1475.61. In US dollars, that translates to $1,641.02.

One reason given by a commentator on LinkedIn was that “the hospital (v. the US) is that they’re only billing you for incremental cost — there’s no capital expenditure or labor costs they need to recapture as that comes from other budgets. So, instead of your fractional share of billing, doctor’s salaries, etc., they’re just trying to keep the budget whole from the fact that you were there v. the bed being empty.”

But we know that hospitals are run like businesses, and many of them are owned by businesses, so they try to squeeze every last drop of profit out of the patient, or their insurance company.

Spain is not the only country that has lower cost medical, but travelling there for care is not yet practical until we can fly on suborbital commercial planes.

But there are places closer to home that will be much lower in cost, and not just for emergency care. But like the three monkees, we Americans are deaf, dumb and blind to reality, and unwilling to see that we are not No. 1.

Rick Scott is a Crook

rick_scott

Kaiser Health News reported yesterday on a study in Health Affairs that some US hospitals charge patients more than 10 times the rates paid by Medicare.

Of the 50 U.S. hospitals with the highest charges, 49 are for-profit institutions, and 20 operate in Florida, and half are owned by a single chain, the study reported.

Yet, not all patients end up paying those charges says Jenny Gold, of Kaiser Health News.

Private insurers, she said, are able to negotiate the sticker price down significantly, and patients paying out of pocket can often negotiate discounts or get charity care if they are low-income.

However, the average U.S. hospital charges a somewhat less staggering sum: 3.4 times the rates paid by Medicare, according to Gold.

But the crux of the article has to do with the hospital chain that owns half of the 20 highest charging hospitals in the country.

That chain is Community Health Systems, a for-profit chain with 199 hospitals. In 2014, the company made $18 billion in profits, 45 percent more than in 2013.

Florida most likely had the most high-charging hospitals because it has an exceptionally high proportion of for-profit hospitals, according to consumer advocates, and North Okaloosa Medical Center, a CHA hospital in the Florida panhandle, was mentioned as having the highest charges of all: 12.6 times Medicare’s rate.

The highest charging hospitals, Gold wrote, besides Florida, were in 13 states, mostly in the South: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

So when you hear that Florida Governor Rick Scott is suing the federal government to get billions for Florida’s hospitals because he won’t expand Medicaid, you have to wonder if he’s not doing so because he wants to funnel that money to for-profit chains like Community Health Systems.

After all, he did steal millions from the government once before and got away with it. Why should now be any different?

When will people realize our health care system is a scam. I am seeing this in the articles I am reading, the articles I am writing, and in my personal life, but too many of you out there are convinced this is the right way to handle health care. It isn’t.

As I wrote in the following two posts, “We’re No. 1!”, NOT! — Why the US Health Care System is Not the Best in the World and Why Implementing Medical Tourism into Workers’ Comp Could Improve Outcomes, and in, “We’re Not No. 1!” We’re No. 11, we are fooling ourselves when we say we have the best health care in the world. We have the most expensive health care, and health care should not be expensive.

But we continue to bury our heads in the sand and allow men like Rick Scott and others to skim off the top, all the while elderly parents go without the medical care they need and the home care they need, younger people are forced onto sub-standard plans because there are no employers nearby who will hire them and put them on their company plans, or they are ineligible to apply for the exchanges because of politics or IRS rules, as well as many other reasons why other Americans are not completely covered, and are left out of the system altogether.

The real reason behind this mess is simple: profit and greed. The system is built for and on top of, the generation of profit and the process of greed.

Mother Jones magazine also discussed this issue yesterday. Here is the link to its article: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/here-are-americas-top-50-health-care-thugs

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I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com. Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp. Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.

What part of ‘You’re being ripped off’ do you not understand?

Arbitrary-Hospital-Fees

The issue of what hospitals charge and how much doctors are paid, and what Medicare pays for, has import to the workers’ comp industry, as an article in Workers’ Comp Insider.com stated today, and in Modern Healthcare.com

According to Workers’ Comp Insider, the inpatient data released earlier this month by CMS, shows Medicare paid about $62 billion to cover more than 7 million discharges.

Bob Herman of Modern Healthcare said the following about hospital charges:

Hospitals have been under intense scrutiny for their billing practices, often triggered by extremely high charges—or sticker prices—for common procedures. Consumer groups and patient advocates argue hospital pricing is shrouded in secrecy, which has put patients on the hook for costly bills. But hospitals have said the listed charges are irrelevant because they only serve as a starting point for negotiations with insurers and that patients rarely, if ever, pay those prices.

Herman goes on to say that:

…Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., had the largest gulfs in charges between the top and bottom hospitals. For example, in Philadelphia, the average difference in average hospital charges across all procedures was $123,847. In Los Angeles—an area rife with academic medical centers such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center—the average difference between the highest-charging hospital and the lowest-charging hospital was about $112,000.

Physician data encompasses 950,000 physicians, nurse practitioners and other providers and $90 billion of Medicare funds, according to Herman, and spending on hospitals and physician services makes up a majority of U.S. healthcare expenses.

The Modern Healthcare article also listed the top ten Diagnostic Related Groups (DRG’s) by total payments to hospitals, and the number one DRG was DRG 470, Major Joint Replacement without major complications/comorbidities, with 446,148 discharges and $7 billion in payments.

So here’s the bottom-line:

If you think that you can negotiate your way out of paying through the nose, if you think that opt-out is going to be the savior to your bottom-line that its promoters promise it to be, and if you think that getting better medical care is possible in your local hospital, then by all means, continue to delude yourself, because that is what you are doing.

But if you see through all of the hype about opt-out, and see it for what it really is, an ideological tool that employers will wield against workers, and if you are tired of paying hospitals outrageous charges and paying for physicians to pad their bank accounts, then you need to consider an alternative to high-cost, average quality medical care, and consider medical travel.

It will save you money, and provide your employees with a better outcome and a better outlook on the job.

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I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com. Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp. Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.

Nothing is Impossible

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Muhammad Ali

This article is for all the naysayers and all the skeptics out there in the workers’ comp world who do not believe that it is possible to offer injured workers the option of seeking medical care in a medical tourism facility outside the US.

Many of you are old enough, as I am, to remember those thrilling days in the 1960’s when the US launched men into space, on their eventual way to the Moon.

Prior to the moon landing, the very idea of putting a man on the moon, and bringing him back safely to Earth, as JFK directed, was thought of as too complicated and impossible, but we did it.

Decades earlier, two young brothers from Ohio did something that humans had dreamed about for thousands of years, and that was also thought of as too complicated and impossible to achieve. Yet, every single day, millions of people fly around the world in jet planes, and usually arrive safely at their destinations, last week’s terrible crash in the French Alps notwithstanding.

There are many other wonderful achievements humanity has made that was once thought of as complicated, impossible or completely unattainable. Yet, we’ve split the atom, sailed under and above the sea, put satellites into orbit, and built the very computers like the one I am using to write this article.

Hey, we even figured out how to carry telephones in our pockets, and even the telephone was once considered impossible to exist.

And yet, despite all of these so-called complicated and impossible feats we have achieved, there are still small-minded, negative people out there in the workers’ comp world who dismiss the very idea of having injured workers going out of the country for medical care for surgeries such as knee surgery, back surgery, hip, shoulder, carpal tunnel, etc.

I hark back every now and then to the roundtable discussion I first cited in my white paper, and is re-quoted below:

Merrell: “…Can you see a role of medical tourism in workers’ compensation injury?”

Ludwick: “I could, if it were a long-term issue. Many workers’ comp issues are emergent,

so that would take out the medical tourism aspect. However,if it was a long-range issue,

I could see us involving workmen’s comp issues into that, or problems.”

Lazzaro: “I would support that. I don’t know the incidence, for example, of some of the orthopedic procedures that are non-emergent, such as knee or hip replacement, which would fall under workmen’s comp. But theoretically, a case could be made for that…”

None of these individuals could ever be accused of believing in a pipe dream, as they are well established members of their professions; Dr. Merrell having been the Chair of the Department of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University before his retirement, and Linda Ludwick and Vic Lazzaro in the business world.

I think what is really going on here when people criticize this idea of mine is that they have a financial stake in the status quo, or they believe the system is so broken, that getting rid of it altogether and letting the worker suffer more agony is preferable to having government step in again to correct the problems.

In the nearly two and half years that I have been writing my blog, I have discussed rising hospital costs, physician shortages, average medical cost for lost time claims continuing to rise, outpatient costs rising, consolidation of hospitals that lead to higher costs, and a host of other plagues the health care system in general, and the workers’ comp system in particular, are dealing with.

Given all of that, and so many other issues, it would be logical to assume that alternatives to the current mess would be welcomed with open arms. But that is not the case, even when I cite cross-border WC in CA, the case in AZ with the Mexican truck driver, and the company in NC who sent 250 of their employees out of the country to get back surgeries, first sending one to India, then the rest to Costa Rica.

WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT I DON’T KNOW THAT WHEN WORKERS WHO WORK FOR A FURNITURE MANUFACTURER NEED BACK SURGERY, THAT IT IS WORK-RELATED, AND THEREFORE A WORK COMP CLAIM?

I’m from New York. You can’t fool us for very long. We’ve seen and done it all.

So don’t tell me it is too complicated and impossible. We New Yorkers built the greatest city in the history of the world, and that too was once considered too complicated and impossible, and the globalization of health care, especially workers’ comp is no different.

The problem is between people’s ears and in themselves. They are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The choice is yours.

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I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer who is sick and tired of being bled by the Wall Street vulture capitalists and the entire medico-legal system known as workers’ comp, to save money, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees, while at the same time, helping to break the monopoly of the American health care cartel.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com. Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp. Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.

Hospital Outpatient Costs Still Rising Says New Study

A new study released earlier this week by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) and reported on in Claims Journal, found the following:

  • States with percent-of-charge-based fee regulations or no fee schedules had the highest payments to hospitals for outpatient surgical episodes for knee and shoulder surgeries. In particular, states with no hospital outpatient fee schedules had 60 to 141 percent higher hospital outpatient payments per episode compared with the typical state with fixed-amount fee schedules.
  • There was tremendous variation in the rates of change in hospital payments per surgical episode across states. From 2006 to 2013, South Carolina saw a reduction of 31 percent in this metric while in Alabama the average hospital payment per surgical episode grew by 81 percent. States with percent-of-charge-based fee regulations or no fee schedules had more rapid growth in hospital outpatient payments per episode than states with other regulatory approaches. In particular, most percent-of-charge-based fee regulation states that did not have updates to the reimbursable percentage of charges experienced growth in hospital payments per surgical episode that was 157–286 percent faster than the median of states with fixed-amount fee schedules.
  • States with cost-to-charge ratio fee regulations had similar levels and growth rates in hospital outpatient payments per episode to states with fixed-amount fee schedules. Hospital outpatient payments per episode in states with cost-to-charge ratio regulations grew 10–25 percent from 2006 to 2013.

The indices compared payments per surgical episode for common outpatient surgeries under workers’ compensation from state to state for each study year, as well as the trends within each state, from 2005 to 2013.

The WCRI study covered 33 large states, representing 86%  of workers’ compensation benefits paid in the United States. The states are studied in the report were : Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Given this study’s findings and the scope of states represented, it would be a no-brainer for any insurance company or broker, or any employer to consider alternatives to the ever increasing cost of hospital care in the US, by exploring medical tourism hospitals which charge a fraction of what US hospitals are charging.

Yet, the workers’ comp industry still ignores what is staring them in the face, and insists that if they do something different, if they use this technique, or that company’s cost-saving scheme, they are going to save money on expensive surgeries. IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN, FOLKS.

Earlier this week, my fellow blogger, Peter Roumaniere, released a report called, “Seismic Shifts: An Essential Guide for Practitioners and CEO’s in Workers’ Comp”, published by WorkCompCentral, and reported by Lynch Ryan.

The report examines how technology and changes in the demographics of the workforce will impact workers’ comp from the present through 2022. Some of the report discussing things that this writer has already seen personally from experience in the industry, such as the shrinking of the workers’ comp industry as more companies are bought up or go out of business altogether, how jobs in industries that used to account for the bulk of workers’ comp claims are seeing a decline in claims being filed, how automation is impacting the processing of workers’ comp claims, and the nature of how adjusters do their job.

From what I found in the report, it would seem that there is not much time for the industry to adapt to the changes Peter outlines, and given the resistance to change with regard to rising health care costs in general, and medical care costs in workers’ comp in particular, as I have discussed in previous posts, it would take some really forward thinking executives to throw caution to the wind, step outside of the padded cell, and find alternatives on their own.

These two excellent reports paint a very bleak picture indeed for the industry if they refuse to act, and act now, instead of waiting for 2022, to make these and other necessary and crucial changes. Opting-out of state systems is one way, but will take years to spread through all fifty states, let alone a majority of states, and as costs keep rising, with no end in sight, economic laws of supply and demand will necessitate looking at better quality health care for lower costs in medical tourism destinations.

You have until 2022 to change, so my advice is to start now. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer who is sick and tired of being bled by the Wall Street vulture capitalists and the entire medico-legal system known as workers’ comp, to save money, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees, while at the same time, helping to break the monopoly of the American health care cartel.

You know where to reach me.

If you would like to purchase the WCRI report, you can order it here:

http://www.wcrinet.org/result/HCI_4_result.html