Predatory Health Care

Brian Klepper

Posted 11/17/13 on Medscape Connect’s Care and Cost Blog

ALP_H_BK_0010Recently I was asked to intervene on behalf of a patient who, trapped by circumstance, was paying off an enormous bill for a lithotripsy procedure. What I uncovered wasn’t news, but it drove home how egregious the current system can be, why it so badly needs to be fixed, and how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps move us in the right direction.

The patient had health insurance through her husband’s job. But it was cancelled just after the hospital validated it, because the employer failed to pay the premium. The procedure was performed, and the patient was charged as “self-pay.”

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Physicians, Health Systems and the Drive For Market Dominance

Brian Klepper

Posted 5/23/13 on Medscape Connect’s Care & Cost Blog

BK 711Several physicians have reached out recently to discuss attractive employment offers from health systems. They are invariably conflicted. They understand the trade-offs, that they’ll give up the autonomy they’ve become accustomed to in exchange for more money and fewer practice management headaches. On the down side, they’ll be accountable for generating significant revenues, sometimes independent of care appropriateness.

Most also are aware that the same care services they provide now will be considerably more expensive once they’re part of a system. Many appreciate that because health systems are corporations with a heavy focus on optimizing short term gains, their future employer’s loyalty is suspect. And then there is the question of whether the health system’s management team is competently preparing to be sustainable in a market that could change dramatically.

As health systems maneuver to dominate regional markets, driving utilization and gaining more leverage over contractual pricing, physician employment has become their principal lever. Primary care physicians (PCPs) are now precious commodities that can manage populations and steer patients into the system’s services. Other specialties – e.g., cardiology, orthopedics, neurosurgery and even gynecologic oncology – are desirable if they’re high yield, driving lucrative, intensive use of inpatient and outpatient services.

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Anatomy of a Walletectomy

Merrill Goozner

Posted 4/25/12 on Gooz News

It all began when Dr. Renee Hsia of the University of California at San Francisco received a simple request from a good friend who had checked into a local hospital for an emergency appendectomy. The fairly routine procedure took place 19,368 times during 2009 in California.

After he returned home, he received a bill from the hospital for $19,000, his co-payment for the parts of the $54,000 operation that his insurance company didn’t cover. “He wanted to know if this was the usual and customary charge for a one-day stay in the hospital,” she recalled.

And thus began her research into pricing variability in the state, which was published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The prices ranged from $1,529 to $182,955 with the median hospital charge of $33,611, the study showed.

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Our Aim Is At 100%. Other Than That, We Are At Zero

Paul Levy

Posted 3/21/12 on Not Running a Hospital

The power of transparency, as I have noted, is that it provides creative tension within hospitals so that they hold themselves accountable. This accountability is what will drive doctors, nurses, and administrators to seek constant improvements in the quality and safety of patient care.

MIT’s Peter Senge explains this more fully in his book The Fifth Discipline:

[T]he gap between vision and current reality is . . . a source of energy. If there was no gap, there would be no need for any action to move toward the vision. Indeed, the gap is the source of creative energy. We call this gap creative tension.

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Ohio Steps Backward On Transparency

Paul Levy

Posted 10/31/11 on Not Running a Hospital

After expressing enthusiastic support for many quality initiatives by hospitals in Ohio, I must report with disappointment an action by their trade association to dismantle the state’s hospital transparency website.  This article summarizes:

The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) is backing a piece of recently introduced legislation that would free hospitals from the requirement to report performance data such as measures of heart and surgical care, infection rates and patient satisfaction.

The reason?  Alleged duplication of effort with the CMS Hospital Compare website.  According to an OHA spokesperson:

The time and effort spent on reporting the data to the state as well as the federal government reduces the resources Ohio hospitals can devote to patient care.

To which I reply, “Bull twaddle!” (This is a family blog, or I would use stronger terms.)

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Less is More: Top-Performing Hospitals Spend Less on Pharmacy and Supplies

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

First posted 9/11/11 on Health Populi

The Top 100 performing hospitals in the U.S. spend 13% less on supply costs and 6% less on pharmacy costs, according to a research brief fromThomson ReutersAssociations Between Supply and Pharmacy Service Intensity, System Membership, and Hospital Performance.

Lower pharmacy intensity translated into lower inpatient and post-discharged mortality, and reduced complications, in the high-performing hospitals. Furthermore, these hospitals had better safety records, and shorter lengths-of-stay.

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U.S. Hospitals Face Gloomiest Economic Outlook in 20 Years

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

First posted 9/08/11 on Health Populi

Revenues = volume x price. This is the financial reality for every organization that makes its money serving customers, whether for-profit or not-for-profit.

For the U.S. hospital sector, both volumes and prices are falling, leading to a depressed top-line. Reimbursement reductions from Medicare, Medicaid and commercial health plans are all under pressure: that’s the ‘price’ part of the equation. On the volume multiplier, the recession economy has caused patients to delay care, such as elective surgeries. Hospitals are forced to scrutinize every aspect of operations, according to Hospital Revenues in Critical Condition; Downgrades May Follow, from Moody’s Investors Service.

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