Tag Archives: Hospital Systems

Health Care Is Not a Market

For the next twenty-one months, there will be a national debate carried on during the presidential campaign regarding the direction this country will take about providing health care to all Americans.

However, to anyone who reads the articles, posts and comments on the social media site, LinkedIn, that debate is already occurring, and most of it is one-sided against Medicare for All/Single Payer. The individuals conducting this debate are for the most part in the health care field, as either physicians, pharmaceutical industry employees, hospital systems executives, insurance company executives, and so on.

We also find employee benefits specialists and other consultants to the health care industry, plus many academics in the health care space, and many general business people commenting, parroting the talking points from right-wing media.

That is why I re-posted articles from my fellow blogger, Joe Paduda last week and yesterday,  who is infinitely more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, and has far more experience in the health care field, that not only predicts Medicare for All (or what he would like to see, Medicaid for All), but has vigorously defended it and explained it to those who have misconceptions.

For that, I am grateful, and will continue to acknowledge his work on my blog. But what has caused me to write this article is the fact that most of the criticism of Medicare for All/Single Payer is because those individuals who are posting or commenting, are defending their turf.

I get that. They get paid to do that, or they depend on the current system to pay their salaries, so naturally they are against anything that would harm that relationship.

But what really gets me is that they are deciding that they have the right to tell the rest of us that we must continue to experience this broken, complex and complicated system just so that they can make money. And that they have a right to prevent us from getting lower cost health care that provides better outcomes and does not leave millions under-insured or uninsured.

However, not all these individuals are doing this because of their jobs. Some are doing so because they are wedded to an economic and political ideology based on the free market as the answer to every social issue, including health care. They argue that if we only had a true free market, competitive health care system, the costs would come down.

But as we have seen with the rise in prices for many medications such as insulin and other life-saving drugs, the free market companies have jacked up the prices simply because they can, and because lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry have forced Congress to pass a law forbidding the government from negotiating prices, as other nation’s governments do.

Yet, no other Western country has such a system, nor are they copying ours as it exists today. On the contrary, they have universal health care for their citizens, and by all measures, their systems are cheaper to run, and have better outcomes.

None of these countries can be considered “Socialist” countries, and even the most anti-Socialist, anti-Communist British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said the following, “Our policy is to create a national health service in order to ensure that everybody in the country irrespective of means, age, sex or occupation shall have equal opportunities to benefit from the best and most up-to-date medical and allied services available.”

Notice that Sir Winston did not say, free market competition. He knew that competition is fine for selling automobiles, clothing, food, and other goods and services. But not health care.

He also said that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they have tried everything else. We’ve tried the free market in health care, and drug prices and other medical prices are through the roof.

However, another thing they have not done, and I believe none of the other OECD countries have done about health care, is to divide the “market” into silos such as the elderly with Medicare, the poor with Medicaid, children with CHIP, veterans with the VA, and their families with Tricare, etc.

No, they pay for all their citizens from a global budget, and do not distinguish between age level, income level, or service in the armed forces.

And their systems do not restrict what medical care their people receive, so that no only do they have medical care, but dental care, vision care, and hearing care. It is comprehensive. And if they have the money to pay for it, they can purchase private health insurance for everything else.

In the run-up to the debate and vote in the UK on Brexit, the point was raised that while Britain was a member of the EU, their retirees who went to Spain to retire, never had to buy insurance because the Spanish providers would bill the NHS.

However, once Britain leaves the EU, they will have to buy insurance privately, because the NHS won’t pay for it. But not all retirees can afford private insurance, so many British citizens will have a problem.

As I have mentioned before in this blog, I was diagnosed with ESRD, and am paying $400 every three months for Medicare Part B. I was doing so while spending down money I received after my mother passed away in 2017. My brother and I sold her assets and used that money to purchase property so that she could go on Medicaid, and eventually into a nursing home when the time came for her to be cared for around the clock.

Since my diagnosis, and prior, I was not working, so spending $400 every three months, and paying for many of my meds, has been difficult. I am getting help with some of the meds, and one is free because my local supermarket chain, Publix gives it for free (Amlodipine).

I hope to be on Medicaid soon, but would much rather see me and my fellow Americans get Medicare for All, and not have to pay so much for it. (a side note: we have seen that Medicaid expansion has been haphazard, or reversed, even when the government is paying 90% of it)

So why are we not doing what everyone else does? For one thing, greed. Drug companies led by individuals like Martin Shkreli, who is now enjoying the hospitality of the federal government, and others are not evil, they are following the dictates of the free market that many are advocating we need. No thanks.

For another, Wall Street has sold the health care sector as another profit center that creates a huge return on investment by investors and shareholders in these companies and hospital systems. Consolidation in health care is no different than if two non-health care companies merge, or one company buys another for a strategic advantage in the marketplace.

There’s that word again: market. We already have a free market health care system, that is why is it broken. What we need is finance health care by the government and leave the providing of health care private. That’s what most other countries do.

So those of you standing in the way of Medicare for All/Single Payer, be advised. We are not going to let you deny us what is a right and not a privilege. We will not let you deny us what every other major Western country gives its people: universal, single payer health care.

Your time is nearly up.

Hospital Mergers Improve Health? Evidence Shows the Opposite – The New York Times

Yesterday’s post, Hospital lobby ramps up ‘Medicare for all’ opposition | Healthcare Dive, suggested that moving towards an improved and expanded Medicare for All system would force hospitals to close, so the article below in today’s New York Times would seem to argue that the urge to merge does not improve health.

So on the one hand, if we adopt a democratic socialist approach to health care, hospitals may close; yet, if we allow them to follow capitalist economic laws regarding economies of scale, they don’t offer better care.

Perhaps, then it is better to try the democratic socialist approach, because the economies of scale approach has not worked, and let’s see if hospitals do close, or they see an increase in patients due to more people being covered.

CMS to Require Bundling of Reimbursements for Hip and Knee Surgery

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last week that they will soon require the bundling of reimbursements for hip and knee surgeries, according to an article yesterday on Health Leaders Media.com.

The article, by Gregory A. Freeman, stated that hospitals and health systems will respond quickly and ruthlessly to the CMS announcement.

According to a former CMS official cited in the article, 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.”

The move by CMS is not surprising, says Mark Bogen senior vice president of finance and CFO at South Nassau Communities Hospital on New York’s Long Island.

Bogen referenced the initial demonstration project set up through CMS whereby many providers selected the DRG’s (Diagnostic Related Groups) 469 and470 (major joint replacement or reattachment of lower extremities, with or without major complications or comorbities), as a way to test moving forward to a value-based payment system.

CMS demonstrated through this project that more than half of the cost of providing care for joint replacement occurred post-surgery, Bogen stated, and that the bulk of the cost occurred in either the acute inpatient rehab units or sub-acute rehab units of skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s).

Deidre Baggot, former lead of CMS’s Acute Care Episode Demonstration (ACE) Bundled Payment Pilot, said the evidence to support bundled payments as a more cost-effective alternative to traditional fee-for-service is clear.

Baggot also said that on the hospital side, we can expect to see demand destruction in areas such as diagnostic testing, hospital stays, and avoidable readmissions, which she says is a good thing.

“Post-acute providers will see a significant hit to inpatient rehab and skilled nursing facility utilization as providers search for lower cost alternatives such as home health services.

David Friend, consulting managing director with the Center for Healthcare Excellence and Innovation at BDO Consulting, said that hospitals are likely going to cut their one- and two-star SNFs to mitigate the risk of penalties during the post-discharge period.

Twenty-five percent of the SNFs are expected to close soon, Friend noted, while medically advanced SNFs will flourish.

Another way the bundling of reimbursements will be disruptive is that rather than having a “blank check for services”, reimbursements will be based on a fixed amount of money, says Mike Lessila, director of business development with Vestica Healthcare.

Lessila said that if hospital systems successfully complete the episode of care for less than the contracted cost, they gain financial profit, but if problems arise due to poor episode management, a preventable hospital readmission, or another complication such as a hospital-acquired infection, the provider will bear the cost of fixing them as well as penalties from CMS.

Finally, bundled payments introduce several complexities to care that hospital systems must deal with, said Lessila. One complexity is that hospital systems must think through its care coordination for these procedures, or the likelihood of failure is high.

Additional resources will be required to ensure the patients’ experiences are good and they follow all of the recommended steps to ensure a successful episode. Bundling will also motivate providers and facilities performing the services to streamline and improve communication.

Lessila said that “financial administration of the bundle becomes far more difficult since a single bundle procedure will involve payments to one or many physicians, medical devices and hospital facility charges. The hospital system must understand who gets paid how much and in what form, and be able to track all of the details to determine whether the bundle is profitable or not in the end.”

What does this mean to you?

The closing of skilled nursing facilities, even one- or two-star facilities will back up the rehab process, not only for general health care, but for workers’ comp, since hip and knee surgeries are common procedures in workers’ comp claims.

Diagnostic testing, hospital stays and avoidable readmissions will also impact the claims process for workers’ comp, and may add more costs to the total hospital bill that employers and insurers will pay.

The confusion that may result from basing the reimbursement on a fixed amount rather than a blank check will force the hospital systems taking a greater financial risk and guaranteeing the outcome of the surgery.

Lastly, the complexities of bundling will impact the financial administration of hospital systems, with most legacy billing systems unable to administer these contracts and aggregate the data, according to Lessila.

What does this mean for medical travel?

The disruptive effects of bundled payments may make it possible to implement medical travel into workers’ comp since there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the episode that can be better managed by facilities not covered by CMS rules that will bottleneck the process of adjudicating and settling claims.

But this will only happen when the medical travel industry convinces the workers’ comp industry and employers that they can provide the required procedures at a lower cost than even bundled payments can offer, and with a better guarantee of positive outcomes.

In my article, “What Role Can Medical Tourism Play in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Workers’ Compensation?”, I said that medical tourism can package rehabilitation and physical therapy services the same way the other medical services are packaged, along with the cost of treatment, airfare and accommodations.

Medical travel facilities can take up the slack from the shuttered skilled nursing facilities that may result from the implementation of bundled payments. The medical travel industry and their destination partners should consider offering their services as a better alternative.

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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, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.