Ahem….what do we say about privacy and data selling…bingo it appears as if you read through the entire article why else would this type of data be shared with Wall Street Investors to make a market for selling some new analytic algorithms. Now get this the investors got to see this “private” information that a patient can’t even get access to see. This reminds me of ePatientDave, “give me my damn data” and this is a total abuse here as the data is not being used for better care but for “better money”.
Now this also says something about access to revenue cycling too, payers and integrators might want to visit this scenario and make sure that it stays on a server for one and what levels of access will be granted. Now this gets worse as the types of information and patients were related to mental health, HIV, Parkinson's and more. How many investors glazed over these records? Accretive gets paid on the revenue boost is provides. There are a lot of these types of 3rd parties around in healthcare and here’s another one used by Blue Cross who had some bad algorithms.
Actually when it comes down to payer disputes you wonder did the hospital bill erroneously on purpose or did they get some bad algorithms and a bunch of promises? If I were one of these patients, court might be on my mind and I would want to know what investors on Wall Street potentially or did see my data! On their website they talk about bringing increased discipline to the revenue cycle so is that the revenue cycle on Wall Street?
Well Fargo just dumped one of these types of companies recently and remember the big data breach at Stanford, also the fault of a 3rd party, so with history being built here who wants to trust a 3rd party today if you don’t have to as patient records end up on the web and in the hands of investors on the street. The 3rd party folks are the algorithm makers though that promise better profits and use of money. This whole scenario though is kind of sad as they were supposed to be helping a couple non profits boost their revenue but the hospitals probably had no clue on the methodologies like showing patients records was in the plan.
“The screen shot also includes numeric scores to predict the “complexity” of the patient and the probability of an inpatient hospitalization, and a box to describe the “frailty” of the patient.”
Tine to start licensing and taxing those data sellers and have a federal disclosure site so we all know what’s going on, beginning to make more sense every day! The link below will describe a bit of this brainstorm. BD
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed a lawsuit against a debt collector accused of failing to protect the confidential information of 23,500 hospital patients after a company laptop was stolen from a rental car parked in the Seven Corners are of Minneapolis.
The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Accretive Health, Inc., a debt collection agency that is part of a New York private equity fund conglomerate, failed to protect the confidentiality of patient health care records and failing to disclose its involvement in their health care.
Last July, Accretive lost a laptop computer containing unencrypted health data of about 23,500 patients of two Minnesota hospital systems -- Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Health Care.
Under both contracts, Accretive controls and directs the work of hospital employees and “infuses” its own employees into the staffs of the hospitals. Accretive gets base compensation and incentive pay for helping the hospitals boost revenue or cut costs.
“The debt collector found a way to essentially monetize portions of the revenue and health care delivery systems of some nonprofit hospitals for Wall Street investors, without the knowledge or consent of patients who have the right to know how their information is being used and to have it kept confidential,” Swanson said.
The state seeks an order requiring Accretive to fully disclose to patients:
- What information it has about Minnesota patients
- What information it has lost about Minnesota patients
- Where and to whom it has sent information about Minnesota patients
- The purposes for which it amasses and uses information about Minnesota patients.
One more the mergers and acquisitions speak out again on how health insurance companies have diversified their portfolios and are no longer “just an insurance company” with numerous subsidiaries both in the Health IT area and even others in what you might consider “unrelated” businesses. Here’s one example below with a diversified interest with a new division created to distribute hearing aids and offer incentives for those in certain areas of the us to sign up for insurance plans. I sometimes wonder how other insurers view this?
Here’s another example of what one might consider a business outside of what we might normally consider a related business with low incoming housing investments in New Mexico. One thing to keep in mind today is all the aggregated data that flows and the algorithms and SQL statements that bring some of this together. Data is big business.
Just a couple weeks ago we read about the investment with mobile health and again we venture down into the data business here again as the Optum division which has many subsidiaries has a huge focus on data, and part of the renamed group was the old “Ingenix” company that has consulted and provided data services for years and last year settled their case with the AMA with short paying providers for out of network services.
This kind of brings me around again to what I call the “Alternative Millionaire’s Tax” with companies that buy and sell data and this seems to be a good place for a mention here as the Optum Division has been making money for years with aggregating and selling prescription and other data. With big profits as such we certainly could entertain a license and tax situation for those making billions on the data selling business. As a short comparison from another Healthcare company, Walgreens has estimated their data selling business to be valued at just under $800 million, so again something to give some thought to as hospitals, providers, and patients struggle to afford medical care today.
Another good article to read about the over sell and naïve and gullible nature of the US with both government and consumers, read what Nanex has to say as they are the folks that monitor and study rogue algorithms in the stock market and look for indicators of the “next flash crash”. A couple paragraphs are below and will the SEC be suckered in to this huge expense of programmers who want to make big dollars writing code convince a naïve and gullible SEC? It’s all over the place with digital illiteracy, steroid marketing and algorithms for huge profits only and they have teeth. At a certain point in time we might need to REALLY think about the value of some of the data we analyze today and the cost and this is worth a mention as this is the big growth area for United, algorithms and software analytics via consulting services. It is also worth a note that United last year hired the former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota for their general counsel.
Below is one example of the algorithm/software business as the company created a clearinghouse business and collaborated with an medical records company to integrate the services with Epic and of course this means more data revenue for the company and puts a bit of stress on other smaller existing clearinghouse businesses in the US as well.
One more thing too is let’s not forget that they also own a bank with over $1 billion on deposit with health savings accounts and I would guess this also leaves them open to lend money on monies held here and somewhat compete with other banks. As you can read in the quote below the funds are largely generated by employers, in other words large US corporations so they seem to go hand in hand, right?
“OptumHealth offers three types of HSAs, as well as tax-advantaged health care savings and spending accounts, debit-card services, benefits administration services, and payment products. About three-quarters of the bank’s 1.6 million accounts are employer-generated, while the other quarter are individual accounts.”
There’s also the Chinese investment the company bought early in 2010.
If you were to stop and look you might also notice one more subsidiary that can consult with biotech and device companies to introduce new products to the FDA and you know when you think about it they might just have a subsidiary to handle the entire process from FDA approval all the way down to provider reimbursement too.
One other related item too is the purchase of physicians groups which is growing and the acquisition of Monarch in Orange County is one big example of buying a huge managed care group.
Again, in summary with such large profits and a lot coming from the data end of the business, this looks like one company where licensing and taxing the data sold for huge profits could fit and there are many more as Hedge Funds, Facebook and tons of other companies are cashing in royally and this all leads to bottom line profits for running algorithms on servers 24/7 that you can’t see, touch or talk to as far as the consumer is concerned, but automated algorithms for data mining and selling are yielding huge profits for corporate USA while as consumers we are becoming “data chasers” to fix a lot of the flawed data that is out there today. It’s a good idea today to read up and see how the corporate USA scene has changed tremendously due to the huge array of mergers and acquisitions as companies are not the same ones they were 2 to 3 years ago by any means. BD
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) today reported fourth quarter and full year 2011 results, highlighted by strong enrollment and revenue growth in each of UnitedHealthcare’s benefits businesses and strong revenue growth at all Optum business units. Full year and fourth quarter 2011 net earnings were $4.73 per share and $1.17 per share, respectively. Cash flows from operations were $7 billion in 2011.
The Company continues to estimate 2012 revenues in the range of $107 billion to $108 billion and net earnings in the range of $4.55 to $4.75 per share.
Is there money in those algos? This story might answer that. Why would this employee who was a contracted programmer take this code? It’s worth money and if you read often enough you know I discuss those algos and software is nothing more than a group of algorithms, words of Bill Gates.
A co-worker said the employee said the accused confused he lost the drive containing the code and get this, it’s the software (aka algorithms) that cost $10 million to develop to track the billions of dollars that the US government dispenses “daily” to government agencies..these are some pretty commanding algorithms…so the programmer apparently took the code and who knows where it would go next? A lot of government code is open source but don’t think that is the case here…what’s the next security breach to occur? BD
Bo Zhang, 32, of Queens, New York, worked as a contract programmer at the bank. He was accused of illegally copying software to an external hard drive, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. district court in Manhattan.
Authorities said the software, owned by the U.S. Treasury Department, cost about $9.5 million to develop.
A New York Fed spokesman said in a statement that the bank immediately investigated the suspected breach when it was uncovered and promptly referred the matter to authorities.
Zhang told investigators he took the code "for private use and in order to ensure that it was available to him in the event that he lost his job," the complaint said.
The code, called the Government-wide Accounting and Reporting Program (GWA), was developed to help track the billions of dollars the United States government transfers daily. The GWA provides federal agencies with a statement of their account balance, the complaint said.
This is kind of an alarming incident but when you read further it does not stop the treatment process and the secondary outbursts are surgically removed. This affects about half of those treated to be on alert, but not all of those develop the secondary skin cancer, only about a quarter of the 50% risk group.
This sounds like a big step in recognizing undesired side effect with oncology treatments. BD
Drug Used to Treat Melanoma with One Mutation Sets off a Cascade that Results in a Different Type of Skin Cancer in Cells with Another Mutation
Patients with metastatic melanoma taking the recently approved drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf®) responded well to the twice daily pill, but some of them developed a different, secondary skin cancer.
Now, researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, working with investigators from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, Roche and Plexxikon, have elucidated the mechanism by which vemurafenib excels at fighting melanoma but also allows for the development of skin squamous cell carcinomas.
The very action by which the pill works, blocking the mutated BRAF protein in melanoma cells, sets off a cellular cascade in other skin cells if they have another pre-disposing cancer mutation and ultimately accelerates the secondary skin cancers, said Dr. Antoni Ribas, co-senior author of the paper and a professor of hematology/oncology.
About 50 percent of patients who get melanoma have the BRAF mutation and can be treated with vemurafenib, Ribas said. Of those, a fourth of the patients develop skin squamous cell carcinomas. The squamous cell carcinomas were removed surgically, and vemurafenib was not discontinued for this side effect.
“We wondered why it was that we were treating and getting the melanoma to shrink, but another skin cancer was developing,” said Ribas, who studies melanoma at the Jonsson Cancer Center. “We looked at what was likely making them grow and we discovered that the drug was making pre-existing cells with a RAS mutation grow into skin squamous cell cancers.”
The 18-month study appears in the Jan. 19, 2012 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The combined research team performed a molecular analysis to identify the oncogenic mutations in the squamous cell lesions of patients treated with the BRAF inhibitor. Among 21 tumor samples studied, 13 had RAS mutations. In a different set of 14 samples, eight had RAS mutations, Ribas said.
“Our data indicate that RAS mutations are present in about 60 percent of cases in patients who develop skin squamous cell cancers while treated with vemurafenib,” Ribas said. “This RAS mutation is likely caused by prior skin damage from sun exposure, and what vemurafenib does is accelerate the appearance of these skin squamous cell cancers, as opposed to being the cause of the mutation that starts these cancers.”
Ribas’ group found that blocking the non-mutated BRAF in cells with mutated RAS caused them to send signals around BRAF that induced the growth of the squamous cell cancers.
The discovery of the squamous cell cancer mechanism has led to strategies to inhibit both the BRAF mutation with vemurafenib and block the cellular cascade with a different drug, a MEK inhibitor, before it initiates the secondary skin cancers, said co-senior author Professor Richard Marais from the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who developed the animal model for the study.
“By understanding the mechanism by which these squamous cell cancers develop, we have been able to devise a strategy to prevent the second tumors without blocking the beneficial effects of the BRAF drugs,” Marais said. “This may allow many more patients to benefit from these important drugs.”
Ribas said that this is one of the very few times that oncologists understand molecularly why a side effect to cancer treatment is happening.
“The side effect in this case is caused by how the drug works in a different cellular setting,” he said. “In one case it inhibits cancer growth, and in another it makes the malignant cells grow faster.”
Studies currently are under way testing BRAF and MEK inhibitors in combination in patients with metastatic melanoma, Ribas said.
“Our data provide a molecular mechanism for the clinical toxicity of a targeted oncogene inhibitor that apparently contradicts the intended effects,” the study states.
The study was supported by Roche, Plexxikon, the Seaver Institute, the Louise Belley and Richard Schnarr Fund, the Fred L. Hartley Family Foundation, the Wesley Coyle Memorial Fund, the Ruby Family Foundation, the Albert Stroberg and Betsy Patterson Fund, the Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation and the Caltech-UCLA Joint Center for Translational Medicine.
UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2011, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 11 of the last 12 years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at http://www.cancer.ucla.edu.
Jon goes back to Foxconn-revisited…in his usual style and he says we need to make our factories look more like those in China. Workers live in dormitories and don’t know each other, cuts down on commuting and friendship.
Workers are finding ways of improving their conditions, hotlines with trying to stop suicide and put nets around buildings to catch jumpers…I think we remember this from a year ago and he says in the US we call this “treating the symptoms”.
“It’s me, Siri, in your pants pocket working on giving you testicular cancer”…If it works for those factories, electronics would cost more..modern work fare…a game to the rescue…this is great humor but there are somethings I does make one ponder…there’s just one level and this is it…(the middle class) as algorithms are marketed and designed and sold to consumers.
He shows the work of the algorithms in place for sure in a humorous way. Why are health insurance companies getting into the low income housing business though? I hope this is not a Foxconn plan to create communities with jobs that pay little and have medical care on campus? What is up with this?
The same company owns a subsidiary that will basically give you a free hearing aid made in China if you sign up for their health insurance…more below…and the subsidiary they built to distribute and coming to Walmart soon as I understand…
He moves on to the next part, a game that has one level…hmmm…we another insurance company banking on this too…data to sell? Will this make you healthy? I prefer real knowledge.
I just ask is there where we are headed with mining and selling data today and big corporations taking over our day to day decisions? The more information they have to judge and discriminate, the ability to control and humiliate the middle class grows.
At any rate with the use of algorithms today that have teeth and the amount of flawed data out there, are we going in this direction? I put this out for an awareness and perhaps to generate some though processes. I like technology and the good things it brings but am not oblivious to how it can also be abused as well and a NYU professor says it even better than me, read and listen up.
I sure hope Richard Cordray understands math and the power of the algorithms when used both in an intuitive and good manner and the reality of those who design for pure profit that hurts consumers. You can see, smell or touch them, but they are running on server 24/7 every day making like impacting decisions, crafted by some of the smartest programmers and developers that the money on Wall Street can buy.
Another good article to read about the over sell and naïve and gullible nature of the US with both government and consumers, read what Nanex has to say as they are the folks that monitor and study rogue algorithms in the stock market and look for indicators of the “next flash crash”. A couple paragraphs are below and will the SEC be suckered in to this huge expense of programmers who want to make big dollars writing code convince a naïve and gullible SEC? It’s all over the place with digital illiteracy, steroid marketing and algorithms for huge profits only and they have teeth. BD
“Wall street hires the best software developers money can buy. They write clever algorithms. These algorithms will only get more clever as time goes on. Which means they will always be changing. Now, writing software to detect what other software is doing is 100 times more difficult. Which in the software world means 100 times more expensive. Which means hiring people that do not exist, since Wall Street already snapped up the best, and you need the best times 100 (you can't make it up in quantity and just get 100 times more wizards, because many will have poor social skills, and you need these people to communicate).”
“You see the folly of trying to regulate the markets in real-time? Real-time raises the cost exponentially times a million. To a level that all the kings in the world couldn't afford. It would be one thing to track in real-time, things that had known behavior. Like your checking account being overdrawn. Maybe credit card fraud in the making (which, by-the-way, hasn't been perfected yet, despite lots of money and time thrown at the problem). “
To go back a little bit in time the chip was also set up to communicate with personal health records like Healthvault. The latest development on the chip was the ability to communicate real time glucose readings. The FDA has approved the product and the HealthLink software.
In addition, Medcomp who makes vascular access catheters will use the chip in vascular ports for identifying the port in a patient for proper medication dispensing. As it read here though the use with Medcomp still needs to secure FDA approval. This chip keeps coming back around with many lives. BD
DELRAY BEACH, Fla., Jan 17, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- VeriTeQ Acquisition Corporation ("VeriTeQ" or "Company"), a marketer of implantable, radio frequency identification ("RFID") technologies for patient identification and sensor applications, announced today it has acquired the VeriChip implantable microchip and related technologies, and Health Link personal health record from PositiveID Corporation. VeriTeQ is majority owned and led by Scott R. Silverman, former Chairman and CEO of PositiveID and VeriChip Corporation. PositiveID has retained an ownership interest in VeriTeQ.
VeriTeQ will focus on three main areas: patient identification and personal health record (PHR) access through the VeriChip implantable microchip and Health Link web-based PHR; implantable sensor applications; and identification of medical devices within the body. VeriTeQ will also focus on identification and sensor applications for animals.
VeriTeQ's acquisition also includes the rights to a Development and Supply Agreement with Medical Components, Inc. ("Medcomp"), a leading manufacturer of vascular access catheters. Under the terms of the agreement, Medcomp will embed the VeriChip microchip in its vascular ports to facilitate identification of the port in a patient and proper medication dispensing.
National health spending rose a slight 3.9 percent in 2010, as Americans delayed hospital care, doctor’s visits and prescription drug purchases for the second year in a row, the Obama administration reported Monday.
The recession, which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, reined in the growth of health spending as many people lost jobs, income and health insurance, the government said in a report, published in the journal Health Affairs.
There are a couple of takeaways from this news.
First, the reduction in spending on healthcare could mean a welcome, albeit temporary relief to those governments and organizations that pay for healthcare….BUT…no real relief for state and local agencies which provide/finance healthcare for poor people. Recessions, of course, result in greater numbers of people qualifying for government-supported care.
The other point is a reminder that some portion of healthcare services are discretionary. When healthcare spending was growing by 10 percent or more each year in the 1980s, that growth probably wasn’t driven by an increase in the need for services. Likewise the slower growth over the last several years is probably not due to the population getting healthier and needing fewer services. Instead, people moderated their demand for healthcare. They put off diagnostic tests, or did not follow through on treatments or prescriptions. Going in the other direction, hospitals routinely see increases in elective surgeries near the end of a calendar year, as people have already met insurance deductibles, and decide to seek care before those deductibles are reset in the new year.
Is this good news? Not necessarily. To the extent the people put off truly necessary tests and treatments, those delays may cost us more in the long run. To some extent, though, tough economic times force us to be more cautious about discretionary spending, and there may be very little impact on long run health status. There is the old saying that if you get a cold, it will take 7 days to go away, but if you see a doctor you’ll be cured in a week! One important element of effective healthcare reform is to introduce that sense of caution in our population. It is a delicate balance – not wanting to interfere with early testing and early, cost-effective treatment, but also discouraging care that has less impact on long term health.
Prices for medical care services and supplies also stayed roughly on par with general inflation during this last year, which is a change from the decades of the 1980s and 1990s where the medical care component of the consumer price index routinely outstripped regular price increases.
I wouldn’t have to polish my crystal ball very much to predict that spending increases for healthcare will pick up speed as the economy recovers. This remains the single most important issue in our nation’s federal deficit struggles.
When I went into solo practice of internal medicine in 1981, it was very easy to get a doctor to see a Medicare patient. All I had to do was make a phone call. A courteous receptionist answered. If the doctor couldn’t come to the phone right away, I could count on a prompt callback.
Consultants saw patients quickly, and generally called me to discuss their findings and advice. And very often there would also be a letter in the mail: “Thank you for referring this delightful patient to me.”
How things have changed! Now a doctor gets the phone menu, just as the patients do, and it often ends in voice mail. It might be a few days before a staff member calls back—usually with the news that “we are not accepting any new Medicare patients.” At best, my patient might be offered an appointment in several months.
One very fine gentleman, who had recently moved to a rural area, found it easier to fly to Tucson to see me than to get in to see a local internist. That was in 2009. Recently, he has become unable to travel, so I needed to find him a local doctor.
I tried to expedite matters by ordering him an immediate diagnostic test: an abdominal CT scan. I don’t think anyone could argue that it wasn’t indicated under the circumstances. One little problem: I am not enrolled in Medicare and don’t have the proper government-issued number to enter into the computer. A license to practice medicine is not enough. This National Provider Identifier (NPI) is supposed to protect the system against being defrauded. Without that number, the imaging facility could not get paid by Medicare.
“Why not use the radiologist’s number?” I asked. After all, he was the one who would get paid. Nope, a referral was required. How about a self-referral from the patient? Nope, we can’t allow patients to decide what tests they need. “The patient is willing to pay for his own test,” I said. Nope, if he’s on Medicare, they aren’t allowed to take his money.
They gave the patient 24 hours to find a properly enumerated doctor to countersign my order. Fortunately, he found a specialist willing to do so, and assume potential criminal liability for committing “waste, fraud, and abuse” by ordering a “medically unnecessary” study. (Fortunately for the patient, he turned out not to have cancer, but that could be bad news for the doctor.)
So this is the status of retired Americans. They can’t just walk into a facility and request a medical test, and pay for it with their very own money.
A man may be qualified to pilot a 747 across the Pacific, but once he’s on Medicare, he is unfit to make an unsupervised decision about his own medical care.
I did find my patient a doctor. None of the internists within a 150-mile radius who “take Medicare” are willing to take on a new Medicare patient. But through the website of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (www.aapsonline.org), I found a link to the Medicare carrier’s list of opted out physicians. They don’t “take Medicare,” but many are pleased to see older patients, for a reasonable fee. There was one internist on the list, 150 miles from my patient. She has a courteous and helpful assistant who actually answers the phone, and told me the charge for a new patient visit: $300.
Things could be worse—and already are much worse in Canada. The “soul-destroying search for a family doctor” is described in the Globe and Mail on Aug 21. The Ontario government’s program called Health Care Connect manages to link only 60 percent of patients with a doctor—although you might find a concierge doctor for $3,000 a year.
That’s the cost of medicine when it’s “free”—if you can find it at all. If ObamaCare is implemented, all Americans will be in the same boat. And guess who will get thrown overboard first.
Some new data out on Small Area Health Insurance Estimates from the census folks.
They have a tool there you can use to look this up yourself, but what I get is that for children (age 18 and under) in Pennsylania, Allegheny County is tied with Montgomery for the lowest percentage without health insurance at 3.9%. The highest: 10% in Lancaster County. Data is for 2009.
The United Kingdom, where, on average, people live longer than in the U.S., spends only about 9 percent of gross domestic product on medicine, compared with our 18 percent. The British control costs in part by having the will to empower a hard-nosed agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, to study treatments and declare some ineffective. Some hope the United States will create a similar agency, but I fear it would be hopelessly politicized and declawed.
My solution: admit we are cost-control wimps, and outsource our treatment evaluation to the U.K. Pass a simple law saying Medicare (and Medicaid) won’t cover treatments considered but not positively appraised by the Britain’s national health institute.
Even better, use clinical evidence evaluations of the British Medical Journal. They’ve classified more than 3,000 treatments as either unknown effectiveness (51 percent), beneficial (11 percent), likely to be beneficial (23 percent), trade-off between benefits and harms (7 percent), unlikely to be beneficial (5 percent) and likely to be ineffective or harmful (3 percent). Let’s at least stop paying for these last two categories of treatments! And to put pressure on doctors to collect evidence, let’s stop paying for “unknown effectiveness” treatments after 10 years of use.
Suppose you went into a grocery store, and found no prices on anything. You ask a clerk how much five pounds of potatoes would be, and he asks you whether you are 65 or older. Youre taken aback, but you tell him you are 64, and he asks whether your income is less than $40,000.00 a year. Startled, you say it is more than that, and then he asks whether you have food insurance. Why would the
price of potatoes depend on the buyers age, income, and insurance status, rather than on the cost of growing, transporting, and stocking the potatoes? That would be absurd.
Yet thats how it is with medical care. I would be unable to find out, for example, the cost of an echocardiogram from the hospital where I did my residency. The price is different for different people. The government instituted this ridiculous situation, in 1965, with Medicare and Medicaid. There is a lot of mythology about these programs, but few people understand them like the physicians who are on the front lines actually seeing the patients. For some of them, it has been a gravy train. They game the system. For others, it has been a disaster to go through medical school and residency, and come out a de facto servant to government programs, but of
course, without benefits or retirement. If you are scrupulously honest, these programs will bankrupt youeven while turning you into Public Enemy #1.
Senators Ron Wyden and Charles Grassley have put forth the Medicare Data Access for Transparency and Accountability Act (the DATA Act) to open a database so that everyone can see how much money Medicare has sent to any physician enrolled in it. Regardless of the cost to provide medical services, the price the taxpayers are forced by the government to pay for other peoples medical care has gone down and down per procedure, per diagnosis, per office visit.
The public wont see that, but it will hear about some isolated cases; for example, an Oregon neurosurgeon who allegedly performed multiple spine surgeries on the same patient, or a Florida physician accused of $3 million dollars in Medicare fraud.
Gaming the system is fraud. But the biggest fraud is the one perpetrated on the working people of this nation who are forced to pay for other peoples medical problems. When Medicare was first instituted, Americans were reassured that it would never cost the taxpayers more than $9 billion a year. It is more like $500 billion a year now.
Patients learn to game the system too. Workers must pay through their taxes for even the most trivial complaint when someone on Medicare makes an appointment for it; say for a cosmetic skin lesion that has been present for 30 years without causing any problem. Working people are also forced to pay for the consequences of other peoples smoking, excess drinking, or risky lifestyle choices. Thats fraud, perpetrated by the government on taxpayers. Its hidden behind political smoke and mirrors.
Amazingly, we managed somehow for 189 years after 1776 without Medicare and Medicaid, and things were getting better and better until Lyndon Johnson came up with a good fraudulent vote-buying scheme, and then a lot of people decided there was money to be made off medical problems with the taxpayers the losers.
So, Wyden and Grassley, open your database. But include a list of all the procedures and diagnoses, and what Medicare and Medicaid actually send the physicians as reimbursement so people can see that physicians who spent years of their life in training while incurring tremendous debtare paid about the same as auto mechanics. And also account for where the rest (about 80%) of the
$500 billion goes.
That would be a good start for medical price transparency. And a good precedent for another database, one detailing just how much value politicians give taxpayers who pay their salaries.
About the Author:
Dr. Tamzin Rosenwasser earned her MD from Washington University in St Louis. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Dermatology and has practiced Emergency Medicine and Dermatology. Dr. Rosenwasser served as President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) in 2007-2008 and is currently on the Board of Directors. She also serves as the chair of the Research Advisory Committee of the Newfoundland Club of America. As a life-long dog lover and trainer, she realizes that her dogs have better access to medical care and more medical privacy than she has, and her veterinarians are paid more than physicians in the United States for exactly the same types of surgery.
I find the sentiments in the quoted passage objectionable for two reasons. First, preventative health care is not ‘everyone’s business’. Individual adults have primary responsibility for their own preventative health care because no-one is better able to exercise that responsibility than they are. Individuals who are persuaded that preventative health care is a collective responsibility could be expected to look increasingly to the various levels of government, non-government organisations, health professionals and practitioners, communities and families – everyone except themselves – to accept responsibility for what they eat, drink and inhale.
Second, the goal of making Australia the healthiest country by 2020 is being put forward as though it is self-evidently desirable collective good that should be pursued by any and every means available to everyone. The goal is not self-evidently desirable. Individual health is not a collective good. And the end does not justify the means that are being proposed to pursue it.
If you delve behind the spin about making Australia the healthiest country by 2020, the underlying goal seems to be to raise average life expectancy in Australia to the highest level in the world by reducing the incidence of chronic disease. What does this entail? It would be hard to object to the goal of enabling individual Australians to reduce their risk of chronic disease. The problem is that the government’s strategy is more about achieving national goals than providing better opportunities for individuals – more about behaviour modification than about ‘enabling’ individuals to reduce their health risks.
The government claims that analysis of ‘the drivers of preventable chronic disease demonstrates that a small number of modifiable risk factors are responsible for the greatest share of the burden’. The behavioural risk factors led by obesity, tobacco and alcohol apparently account for nearly one-third of Australia’s total burden of disease and injury. The chronic conditions for which some of these factors are implicated include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, depression and oral health problems.
Since these risk factors stem from individual lifestyles it is obviously desirable for individuals to be aware of them. There may be a role for governments in provision of this information. Perhaps governments should also be involved in helping people in various ways to live more healthy lifestyles. It is questionable how far governments should go down this path, but it is difficult to object to modest efforts by governments to improve opportunities for people to live healthier lifestyles.
However, rather than helping people to help themselves the federal government has chosen the path of Skinnerian behaviour modification. It has chosen to drive changes in behaviour through what it describes as the ‘world’s strongest tobacco crackdown’. (This is one instance when I hope the government doesn’t actually mean what it says – some people in Bhutan have apparently been jailed recently for possession of more than small amounts of tobacco products.) The government’s strategy also involves ‘changing the culture of binge drinking’ and ‘tackling obesity’, but in this post I will focus on smoking.
Some of the tactics being used in the tobacco crackdown involve information and persuasion but there is also an element of punishment involved. The tobacco excise has been increased to over $10 for a packet of 30 cigarettes and legislation is proposed to require cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging. It seems to me that this amounts to persecution of smokers and their families. It will reduce the amount of household budgets available to be spent on other products and encourage some to avoid excise by obtaining tobacco from illegal sources.
As a former smoker, I am probably more strongly against smoking than most people who have never smoked. I encourage other people to quit smoking and discourage young people from taking up the habit. But having given up smoking several times, I know how hard this can be. Governments have no basis on which to judge that people are not in their right mind if they consider that the pleasures they might obtain from additional years of life are not worth the pain of giving up smoking.
In my view this question of whether smokers are capable of judging what is in their own best interests is at the crux of the matter. The politicians and bureaucrats who seek to modify the behaviour of smokers may see themselves as enhancing the capability of these people to have lives that they ‘have reason to value’, in accordance with well-being criteria proposed by Amartya Sen. If so, their attitudes highlight a major problem with Sen’s approach. Governments have no business deciding what kinds of lives individuals have reason to value.
Enrolling into a drug rehab program can be the hardest thing to do but it can save a life.
For too many physicians, that conversation is hard to have, and families, too, are reluctant to initiate a discussion about what Mom or Dad might want until they're in a crisis, which isn't the best time to make these kinds of decisions. Ideally, that conversation should begin at the kitchen table with family members, rather than in a doctor's office.It's a conversation you need to have wherever and whenever you can, and the more people you can rope into it, the better! Make this conversation a part of your Thanksgiving weekend, there will be a right moment, you just might not realize how right it was until you begin the conversation.
The audit program serves as a new part of OCR’s health information privacy and security compliance program. OCR will use the audit program to assess HIPAA compliance efforts by a range of covered entities, Audits present a new opportunity to examine mechanisms for compliance, identify best practices and discover risks and vulnerabilities that may not have come to light through OCR’s ongoing complaint investigations and compliance reviews. OCR will broadly share best practices gleaned through the audit process and guidance targeted to observed compliance challenges via this web site and other outreach portals.The OCR HIPAA Audit Program page also provides detail on when the audits will begin, who will be audited, how the audit process will work, and what will happen after the audit. The information indicates that they will select a broad range of covered entities for the first round of audits and that business associates will be included in future audits.
On June 5, 2009 and June 30, 2009, HHS began investigations of two separate complaints alleging that the Covered Entity was in violation of the Privacy and/or Security Rules. The investigations indicated that the following conduct occurred (“Covered Conduct”):
(i) During the period from August 31, 2005 to November 16, 2005, numerous Covered Entity workforce members repeatedly and without a permissible reason examined the electronic protected health information of Covered Entity patients, and during the period from January 31, 2008 to February 2, 2008, numerous Covered Entity workforce members repeatedly and without a permissible reason examined the electronic protected health information of a Covered Entity patient.More information and background can be found in the iHealthBeat article, UCLA Health System Agrees to Pay $865K over Privacy Breaches, including a link to a statement on the settlement issued by UCLH Health System.
(ii) During the period 2005-2008, a workforce member of Covered Entity employed in the office of the Director of Nursing repeatedly and without a permissible reason examined the electronic protected health information of many patients.
(iii) During the period 2005-2008, Covered Entity did not provide and/or did not document the provision of necessary and appropriate Privacy and/or Security Rule training for all members of its workforce to carry out their function within the Covered Entity.
(iv) During the period 2005-2008, Covered Entity failed to apply appropriate sanctions and/or document sanctions on workforce members who impermissibly examined electronic protected health information.
(v) During the period from 2005-2009, Covered Entity failed to implement security measures sufficient to reduce the risks of impermissible access to electronic protected health information by unauthorized users to a reasonable and appropriate level.