Tag Archives: Hospital Costs

Top 10 Orthopedic Hospitals by Procedure

Last year, Christmas Eve, to be exact, I wrote a short post about the top ten hospitals for total knee replacement under $50,000.

This year, I’d like to expand on that and discuss the top ten orthopedic hospitals outside of the US for such procedures as Arthroscopy (knee or shoulder), Disc Replacement, and Rotator Cuff Repair.

The website I linked to in my post last year, Archimedicx.com, is the same website I used now to illustrate the difference between costs in the US and elsewhere in the world.

This website is by no means the definitive source of such information. There are other websites that provide similar prices and are only ballpark figures, not actual quotes, or firm prices. Archimedicx’s website will give you a quote once you have chosen from among a list of hospitals you searched for, depending on what procedure you want to have.

I have limited the discussion here to only the three I mentioned above, as arthroscopic procedures for both knees and shoulders, resulted in the same hospitals being displayed.

The price range column indicates those hospitals who charge the amount stated or less, as the website allows an individual to choose the price range they want.

In the table below, the quality score is the ranking algorithm that generates a unique quality score for each procedure in each analyzed hospital (on a scale of 1 to 5). For the sake of clarification, a certain hospital can have different quality scores, depending on the procedure or treatment in question.

 

Table – Top Ten Orthopedic Hospitals by Procedure

top-ten-ortho-hosp

For each procedure examined, there were at least a few hundred other hospitals that one could look at, but I only wanted the top ten, as you see, ranked by quality scores. There are no doubt other hospitals on the website that may score better on other websites, or can provide these procedures for far less than they do.

The idea here is to point out that the US is more expensive than others, and as the following chart shows, we are dead last in terms of care.

nhs-best-system

But it is sad that Americans do not realize this and do what the other countries in that chart have done, provide health care to all.

It is also sad that our system for treating on the job injuries also does not allow people to seek medical care outside of their states or the country. Only two states do that, Washington, and Oregon, but as I’ve said before, there have been exceptions.

Now with a new administration seeking to destroy the social safety net and the ACA, we may see more case shifting and more crowded ER’s and not enough medical personnel to treat them.

And for what?  The commodification of health care for those who can afford it, and for the profit of those who pay for it.

Interesting Article on PPO’s

Forbes.com has published an extensive article claiming that PPO’s have perpetrated a great heist [author’s words] on the American middle class.

According to the article,  trillions has been redistributed from the American workforce to the healthcare industry, creating an economic depression for the middle class.

The article consists of an interview conducted by author Dave Chase and Mike Dendy, Vice Chairman and CEO of Advanced Medical Pricing Solutions, Inc., a healthcare cost management company.

Here is the link to the full article:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/davechase/2016/09/05/have-ppo-networks-perpetrated-the-greatest-heist-in-american-history/#25489cd66d00

Is it any wonder why work comp is also so screwed up? Too many cooks (or is that crooks?) taking their “cut” out of the middle class.

But we keep insisting that we have the best health care system in the world, that our workers get the best care when they are injured and don’t need to have any alternatives explored to improve the care and treatment they get, and that the free market is the best way to provide health care. It’s free alright. Free for the greedy to become more greedy. But not for you and me.

Large Variations in Payments for Hospital Outpatient Care to Injured Workers

Back in April of this year, I wrote about a study by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) in which it was found that fee schedules may increase the number of workers’ comp claims.

Today, the WCRI released a new study that said that “hospital outpatient payments per surgical episode varied significantly across states, ranging from 69 percent below the study-state median in New York to 142 percent above the study-state median in Alabama in 2014,” according to Dr. Olesya Fomenko, co-author of the study and economist at WCRI, and who also is mentioned in my previous post.

The report also stated that “variation in the difference between average workers’ compensation payments and Medicare rates for a common group of procedures across states was even greater—reaching as low as 27 percent (or $631) below Medicare in New York and as much as 430 percent (or $8,244) above Medicare in Louisiana.”

Here are the major findings:

  • States with no workers’ compensation fee schedules for hospital outpatient reimbursement had higher hospital outpatient payments per episode compared with states with fixed-amount fee schedules—63 to 150 percent higher than the median of the study states with fixed-amount fee schedules. Also, in non-fee schedule states, workers’ compensation paid between $4,262 (or 166 percent) and $8,107 (or 378 percent) more than Medicare for similar hospital outpatient services.
  • States with percent-of-charge-based fee regulations had substantially higher hospital outpatient payments per surgical episode than states with fixed-amount fee schedules—32 to 211 percent higher than the median of the study states with fixed-amount fee schedules. Similar to non-fee schedule states, workers’ compensation payments in states with percent-of-change based fee regulations for common surgical procedures were at least $3,792 (or 190 percent) and as much as $8,244 (or 430 percent) higher than Medicare hospital outpatient rates.
  • Most states with fixed-amount fee schedules and states with cost-to-charge ratio fee regulations had relatively lower payments per episode among the study states. In particular, for states with fixed-amount fee schedules, the difference between workers’ compensation payments and Medicare rates ranged between negative 27 percent (or -$631) and 144 percent (or $2,916).

Still think that workers’ comp is doing okay? Still think that keeping the status quo is the best option for injured workers? Still think that thinking outside the box, and considering alternatives to the ever increasing cost of medical care for workers’ comp is stupid, ridiculous and a non-starter?

Or do you believe, as Joe Paduda wrote about today in his blog, that workers’ comp is no longer needed for 90% of America’s employees, as the workplace has become safer than the non-occ environment.

The idea brought forth, and as Joe said, it is an intriguing, but wrong one, is that the medical care can be provided under health insurance, and the disability coverage can be added to long-term or short-term disability insurance.

Whichever way you look at the issue, workers’ comp is not going away, but it is getting more expensive to pay for medical care. The problem here is, too many Americans are slavishly wedded to outmoded ways of thinking, outmoded economic policies and models, as well as an outmoded economic ideology, to think rationally and seriously about alternatives.

Lastly, there are too many cooks (or should that be crooks) with their hands in the pot who have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. If that is so, then the WCRI is only telling us what we should already know…injured workers are screwed and so are the carriers and employers. As long as outside interests have a hand in the system, and those who profit from higher costs block real change, this situation will only get worse.

I am sure glad it is not my money being wasted like this.

As always, to purchase the study click this link:

http://www.wcrinet.org/studies/public/books/hci_5_book.html

 

Final Rule for Bundled Hip and Knee Replacements Published

Four months ago today, I wrote a piece called, “CMS to Require Bundling of Reimbursements for Hip and Knee Surgery”, that said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require the bundling of reimbursements for hip and knee surgeries.

Today, Health Affairs blog published an article reporting that CMS has recently published the final rule for the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model, which is a mandatory bundled payment model for lower extremity joint replacement (LEJR) services in certain geographic areas.

The article, by Patrick H. Conway, Rahul Rajkuma, Amy Bassano, Matthew Press, Claire Schreiber and Gabriel Scott, said that hip and knee replacements are the most common inpatient surgery procedures for Medicare beneficiaries, and can require long recovery and rehab periods.

The authors said that in 2014, more than 400,000 beneficiaries received hip or knee replacement, which cost more than $7 billion just for hospitalization.

They also reported that the quality and cost of care for these surgeries varied significantly by region and by hospital, and was true for both the care received in the hospital and for post-acute care outside.

The variation, they said, is due to the way Medicare pays for this care today, spread among multiple providers, with no single entity accountable for the total patient experience.

Care can be fragmented, they wrote, which leads to adverse outcomes.

Here are the key takeaways from the final rule:

  • the CJR model seeks to incentivize Medicare providers and suppliers to work together to improve the quality and reduce the costs of care for patients undergoing lower extremity joint replacement
  • the acute hospital where the procedure occurs will be accountable for aggregate Medicare expenditures and the overall quality of related care
  • the model will include participant hospitals located in 67 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) throughout the country
  • acute hospitals paid under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and located in the selected MSAs will be included in the model, with the exception of hospitals currently participating in Model 1 or Models 2 or 4 of the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative
  • depending on the hospital’s quality and aggregate spending performance, the hospital may receive an additional payment from Medicare, or need to repay Medicare in the second year if spending exceeds targets
  • hospitals will need to work with physicians and post-acute care providers, such as home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities, to ensure patients get the care they need

This is in contrast to what I reported on in July, when I said that a former CMS official was cited in the Freeman article as saying that mandatory bundled payments for hip and knee surgeries would shutter one in four skilled nursing facilities and trigger “demand destruction in areas such as diagnostic testing, hospital stays, and avoidable readmissions.”

Whether or not this final rule will do what the authors of the Health Affairs article says it will do remains to be seen, but judging by past CMS programs to affect quality and costs, this may be wishful thinking on the part of the authors.

The insistence that one more new initiative, or more incentives, or one more new model or new rule will change the way health care is being provided in the US, just goes to show that until we adopt a single-payer, “Medicare for All” system with less rules and less incentives, some people will continue to game the system, then we will see a radical change in the American health care system.

And if workers’ compensation follows changes in health care under Medicare, especially how it determines reimbursements for hip and knee surgeries, which are also common to workers’ comp, we can expect to see issues in workers’ comp.

Alternatives must be considered to an ever expensive and poor quality of health care for workers’ comp. That alternative is medical travel.

SPOTLIGHT Interview – October 31, 2013

This is the original interview published on October 31, 2013 by Medical Travel Today.com.

Medical Travel Today (MTT): Tell us your position in the medical tourism industry, as well as your thoughts on integrating medical tourism into workers’ compensation cases in the U.S.

Richard Krasner (RK): Currently, I am a blogger, blogging about the implementation of medical tourism into workers’ compensation.

I first began looking into integrating medical tourism into workers’ compensation when I needed a topic for a paper in my Health Law class as part of my M.H.A. degree program in March of 2011. A lawyer who was working for a medical tourism facilitator company at that time, and who had written an article in a law journal about medical tourism, gave me the idea after my first topic did not pan out. She thought that the legal barriers to implementing international medical providers into workers’ compensation through medical provider networks was a good idea, and since I had a small interest in the subject of medical tourism, I submitted that as my topic to the instructor.

He gave me his approval and, as I started to do my research, I found many articles on medical tourism and nothing on medical tourism and workers’ compensation, so I knew my task was a difficult one. But as the point of the paper was to write about a legal issue and persuade people one way or the other, I felt that I could mention the lack of literature on the subject and perhaps open up dialogue in that area. I then found a roundtable discussion from the January/February 2008 issue of the journal Telemedicine and e-health.

In the discussion, I found something that I had been looking for, but had not expected in a medical journal: a validation from four of the participants for my idea to implement medical tourism into workers’ compensation. I made their discussion the centerpiece of my paper, and thus my argument in favor of implementation. They said essentially that they thought that medical tourism could work for non-emergent, i.e., non-emergencies or long-range issues, such as knee or hip replacement, chronic back injury and repetitive action injuries, and that it would not be a leading offering. That is when the light bulb went on, and I realized that it could be accomplished as an option for the injured worker to consider.

Initially, my research consisted of finding articles that discussed medical tourism in destinations, such as India, Singapore and Thailand, and my thought then was that it might be a stretch to send injured workers that far away, but that maybe it could be done. Later on, as I got more involved in medical tourism through my attendance at the 5th World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in October 2012, and through conversations online with another lawyer, I realized that the best chance for this to happen was in Latin America and the Caribbean, and that given the rise of the Latino population in the U.S., sending patients home to their home countries for treatment would present no language or cultural barriers, and would allow friends and family in those countries to visit them during recovery, which will improve their self-esteem and improve their recovery time.

I have since come to believe that all injured workers could be offered this as an option, not just those of Latin or Caribbean origin.

MTT: How will the integration benefit individuals, health insurance companies, and the entire medical community, both domestically and internationally?

RK: I believe first and foremost that medical tourism will have its most important benefit on the individual because of some of the things I mentioned above, namely little or no cultural or language barriers to overcome between Spanish or English in most cases, or between Portuguese or other languages in the region. Also, as I said, their friends and families back home can visit, which would make their recovery more relaxing, more pleasant and would show them that the patient is not sitting at home just collecting a check. It would also give the patient greater self-esteem and speed recovery. Finally, by being treated in the better hospitals in the home country, a patient’s friends and family will see that their loved one is being cared for by the best doctors and at the best facility in their country.

I think the benefit for the health insurance company or, in this case, the workers’ compensation carrier would be that they will not have to pay for expensive procedures, such as hip or knee repair/replacement, shoulder surgery, spinal fusion surgery or carpal tunnel surgery. This is despite the fact that many states have fee schedules for workers’ compensation, which tells providers how much to charge the carrier for each procedure, and which may be less than the normal fees charged. Nonetheless, as the recent New York Times article indicates, the U.S. has the highest cost for healthcare, and it is not slowing down, nor has the average medical cost for lost-time workers’ compensation claims, as I have written about in my white paper and my blog.

I think for the entire medical community domestically and internationally, it will have several benefits, the first of which will be the realization that healthcare is globalizing and that it is no longer possible to consider that quality medical care is available only in the developed world. Second, it will lead to the development of international accreditation standards, quality standards and other standards that up to now have hampered medical tourism’s expansion and growth.

These standards will take time to be adopted and will be expensive to implement for the medical tourism facilities involved, as it has already been for the implementation of other standards and forms of accreditation, such as from the Joint Commission International.

Thirdly, it will have the benefit of bringing American patients to medical providers in other countries, those who otherwise would never be seen by foreign doctors except for those who have gone to foreign-born doctors practicing here in the U.S., whether in private practice or in a hospital setting. Fourth, and this is more of an issue with workers’ compensation cases, doctors abroad will be able to get broad experience treating work-related injuries that they have never seen, thus adding to their medical experience, and providing their fellow citizens with that experience should they ever require it.

Medical tourism will open up global healthcare to all inhabitants of this planet, not just those looking for cosmetic surgery, or procedures that are too expensive or unavailable in their home countries. It will certainly open it up to those who otherwise could not afford to travel out of their country for treatment.

MTT: What would you say are the steps necessary to take in order for medical tourism to be integrated into workers’ compensation effectively?

RK: First, there has to be a removal of all or many of the legal barriers that I mentioned in my white paper, as well as many others that I could not or did not mention. Also, there has to be some understanding on how the legal issues surrounding medical tourism can be solved such as malpractice, legal liability, privacy issues, medical records transfers, etc.

There are financial steps that need to be addressed, such as which currency the payments will be made in, any incentives to injured workers, referring physicians, treating physicians, destination hospitals, as well as travel insurance coverage for things not covered under workers’ compensation. And lastly there has to be a willingness on the part of employers and insurance companies, third party administrators, and lawyers to accept medical tourism as part of workers’ compensation. I have discussed this with several people recently through emails, and in the past six months since beginning my blog, and have written about this as well.

As the Chinese say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. An industry like the workers’ compensation industry in the U.S., which is concerned with issues, such as pain medication abuse, physician dispensing of drugs and dealing with cost-curbing strategies that have failed, must come to the realization that the journey for them must begin now — before costs skyrocket any further.

MTT: What can you see being potential deterrents in integrating medical travel benefits into workers compensation?

RK: First of all, let me say that I don’t have all the answers, and I cannot foresee all contingencies and problems associated with traveling abroad for care. But I do want to make this clear so that your readers will not think that I don’t know what I am talking about, or that they will think that integrating medical tourism into workers’ compensation will be easy and not fraught with difficulties and complications.

It will not be easy, there are and will be complications from flying after undergoing surgery abroad, just as there are if the patient was treated at the local hospital. I am not a medical person, so my knowledge of how patients will tolerate air travel after surgery or what complications will arise is beyond my experience. But I can say this: I don’t see a difference between a patient who traveled abroad for medical care as a private patient for cosmetic, body improvement or other forms of surgery usually associated with medical tourism and a patient who is traveling abroad for surgery as a result of an on-the-job injury. Yes, there are differences in the process of treatment and aftercare and recovery, but if the private patient can develop complications, so too can the workers’ compensation patient.

To answer the question then, I think deterrents include a lack of will, fear of lawsuits in countries with laws that do not favor the insurance company or the employer, malpractice insurance and legal liability that does not meet American standards, employee choice to stay at home, and pressure from special interest groups like doctors, hospitals, pain clinics, rehab facilities, trial lawyers, etc.

MTT: During a time of rapid healthcare reform, why do you think medical tourism hasn’t been connected to workers compensation already?

RK: Because there is so much uncertainty over the impact the Affordable Care Act will have, not only on healthcare, but also on workers’ compensation. In my research on that subject, I found that there will be little immediate impact, but down the line there will be, especially as more people get health insurance, and also because of the doctor and nurse shortage, which will affect both healthcare and workers’ compensation.

There are critics of the law who say it will raise costs, and then there are those who say it will lower costs, as some have already pointed out recently. But only time will tell who is right and who is wrong. Finally, I don’t think many in the workers’ compensation industry have ever considered looking abroad, except to plan their next vacation.

MTT: Is there anything else you would like to add at this point that you think is significant in terms of medical tourism, workers’ compensations and/or the integration of the two?

RK: Yes, as I said in my blog post, The Faith of My Conviction, what is needed is the will to do it, the courage to make it happen, the hard work to get it there, and the determination to bring the two industries together. I have had experts tell me that it won’t happen, but I pointed out right away in my post the discussion I found between the four medical professionals, and I believe that as medical professionals they have a better understanding of the issues involved than I do as a layman. I trust their judgment of the issue and defer to them for my belief that it can be done.

So who is right and who is wrong? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know this: for 20 years, the average medical cost for lost-time claims has gone from around $8,100 to almost $30,000 with no decrease in cost, but with a slowdown in the rate of increase. Is that progress? Is that a sign that all other avenues tried have not succeeded? Perhaps it will take higher costs to wake people up to the reality that medical care, like all other goods and services, always goes to those places where the goods or services can be produced at cheaper cost with better quality.

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.