“No Surprise Charges” is one of the key Lessons Learned in Elisabeth Rosenthal’s fabulous new book AN AMERICAN SICKNESS (Penguin Press, 2017). “Hospitals in your network should also be required to guarantee that all doctors who treat you are in your insurance network.”
We have all harshly experienced or heard about under-the counter out-of-network hospital charges:
(A) “A Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that among insured, non-elderly adults struggling with medical bill problems, charges from out-of-network providers were a contributing factor about one-third of the time. Further, nearly 7 in 10 of individuals with unaffordable out-of-network medical bills did not know the health care provider was not in their plan’s network at the time they received care.”
(B) A new study that looked at more than 2 million emergency department visits found that more than 1 in 5 patients who went to ERs within their health-insurance networks ended up being treated by an “out-of-network” doctor — and thus exposed to additional charges not covered by their insurance plan.”
Here is a brief case study:
“When Janet Wolfe was admitted to the hospital near Macon, Georgia, a few years ago, her lungs were functioning at just one-fifth their normal capacity. The problem: graft-versus-host disease, a complication from a stem cell transplant she received to treat lymphoma. Over the course of three days she saw three different doctors. Unbeknownst to Janet and her husband, Andrew, however, none of them was in her health plan’s network of providers. That led the insurer to pay a smaller fraction of those doctors’ bills, leaving the couple with some hefty charges.” (C)
So what can you do to avoid out-of-network charges? (D)
– Speak with a practice representative before being seen to understand the costs of seeing your doctor on an out-of-network or a cash basis. (DOCTOR note: maybe you need to leave and go to an in-network physician instead)
– If you need additional services, such as surgery, imaging or physical therapy, ask your doctor to refer you to an in-network facility to keep your costs down.
A New York law is a great start toward transparency to reduce out-of-network surprises.
Under a recent New York law, Hold Harmless Protections for Insured Patients, “… patients are generally protected from owing more than their in-network copayment, coinsurance or deductible on bills they receive for out-of-network emergency services or on surprise bills.
A bill is considered a surprise if consumers receive services without their knowledge from an out-of-network doctor at an in-network hospital or ambulatory surgical center, among other things. In addition, if consumers are referred to out-of-network providers but don’t sign a written consent form saying they understand the services will be out of network and may result in higher out-of-pocket costs, it’s considered a surprise bill. (E)
(A) Surprise Medical Bills by Karen Pollitz, kkf.org, http://kff.org/private-insurance/issue-brief/surprise-medical-bills/
(B) Many get hit with surprise ‘out-of-network’ bill after emergency rooms: Study” by Dan Mangan, CNBC, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/16/many-get-hit-with-surprise-out-of-network-bill-after-emergency-rooms-study.html
(C) When Out-Of-Network Charges Pop Up, Try An Appeal, by Michelle Andrews, NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/06/21/137304710/when-out-of-network-charges-pop-up-try-an-appeal
(D) What It Means If Your Doctor is Out of Network, by Sergio Viroslav, Angie’s list, https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-it-means-if-your-doctor-out-network.htm
(E) N.Y. Law Offers Model For Helping Consumers Avoid Surprise Out-Of-Network Charges by Michelle Andrews, KHN http://khn.org/news/n-y-law-offers-model-for-helping-consumers-avoid-surprise-out-of-network-charges/
Lesson Learned from recent EBOLA and ZIKA episodes. We need to designate REGIONAL EMERGING VIRUSES REFERRAL CENTERS (REVRCs).
1. There should not be an automatic default to just designating Ebola Centers as REVRCs although there is likely to be significant overlap.
2. REVRCs should be academic medical centers with respected, comprehensive infectious disease diagnostic/ treatment and research capabilities, and rigorous infection control programs. They should also offer robust, comprehensive perinatology, neonatology, and pediatric neurology services, with the most sophisticated imaging capabilities (and emerging viruses “reading” expertise).
3. National leadership in clinical trials.
4. A track record of successful, large scale clinical Rapid Response.
5. Organizational wherewithal to address intensive resource absorption.
REVRC protocols will be templates for are other mosquito borne diseases lurking on the horizon, such as Chikungunya, MERS, and Dengue.
Fast forward to this weekend: “There have been 17 suspected cases and two confirmed cases of Ebola in Congo’s Bas-Uele province,…. Of the 19, three deaths have been reported. …. health officials were trying to located 125 people believed to be linked to the cases.” (A)
What are we waiting for? DESIGNATE REVRCs NOW!
(A) EBOLA RETURNS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE OUTBREAK IN CONGO, by BY CONOR GAFFEY, Newsweek, http://www.newsweek.com/democratic-republic-congo-ebola-609143
EMERGENCY ROOMS are not all created equal! http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2016/04/emergency-rooms-are-not-all-created-equal/
We don’t know what we don’t know” http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2016/04/we-dont-know-what-we-dont-know-about-zika-1-the-challenge-to-emergency-preparedness/
Former hospital prez says: Designate local Zika centers now. http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2016/06/former-hospital-prez-says-designate-local-zika-centers-now-medical-experts-do-not-know-if-or-where-or-how-much-or-on-what-trajectory-the-zika-virus-may-spread-across-the-united-states/
“I got Zika. The US health care system had no idea what to do with me…” http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2016/08/i-got-zika-the-us-health-care-system-had-no-idea-what-to-do-with-me/
“With little known about Zika virus, hospitals scramble to stay ahead.” http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2016/08/with-little-known-about-zika-virus-hospitals-scramble-to-stay-ahead/
Hospitals are developing their own Zika preparedness models. Compare the Central Florida and Johns Hopkins approaches! Which template makes more sense? http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2016/09/hospitals-are-developing-their-own-zika-preparedness-models-compare-the-central-florida-and-johns-hopkins-approaches-which-template-makes-more-sense/
Living in the rarified world of VIP access to health care maybe it’s time for a non-randomized clinical trial, with Congressman being in a study group where they have to pay out-of-pocket fee-for-service with no reimbursement, for prostate screening and treatment.
So they can experience what life was like for 20 million Americans before Obamacare.
Some specifics of the trial. They must get care in their districts. No “professional courtesy” from local physicians. No free PSA. Go to the ER if further tests are needed and become “self pay”, or apply for “charity care” and/ or work out a payment plan for the hospital charges, radiologist, urologist +++
THEN in a year come back to Washington and revise the Obamacare algorithms to assure its sustainability.
For which they might start be reading How to Build on Obamacare by Paul Krugman of the New York Times.
“Actually, though, health care isn’t all that complicated. Basically, you need to induce people who don’t currently need medical treatment to pay the bills for those who do, with the promise that the favor will be returned if necessary.
Unfortunately, Republicans have spent eight years angrily denying that simple proposition. And that refusal to think seriously about how health care works is the fundamental reason Mr. Trump and his allies in Congress now look like such losers.
But put politics aside for a minute, and ask, what could be done to make health care work better going forward?”
To see some solutions read the rest of the article by clicking on https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/opinion/how-to-build-on-obamacare.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0
To understand why “Repeal and Replace” was a flop click on LESSONS LEARNED: TrumpRyanCare Obits at http://doctordidyouwashyourhands.com/2017/03/lessons-learned-trumpryancare-obits/
And, worth reading:
Is Obamacare a Lifesaver? By Ross Douthat, New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/opinion/is-obamacare-a-lifesaver.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share
“Repeal and Replace” was a political play!
After eight years of whining, “there was no there there”, no Republican plan!
Following is a sequence of obituary snippets explaining what happened and why.
Ryan: ObamaCare will be law for ‘foreseeable future’
“GOP leadership and the White House had spent weeks attempting to bring skeptical Republicans on board. Conservatives argued the bill didn’t go far enough to repeal ObamaCare, while moderate lawmakers worried about backlash in their districts from those who came to rely on ObamaCare.”
THE HILL. Ben Kamisar
Why Trumpcare Failed
“After making repeal of that law their top legislative priority for the past seven years, Republicans now join the much longer list of failures because, during all that time, they never reached a consensus. Rather than come up with a plan the party could unite behind, and with the ACA filling the space where bipartisan consensus could be had, they splintered and entrenched. You can’t bridge that divide. (For their own political sakes, they’re lucky they didn’t.)”
“Freedom Caucus members have a cold vision of health care reform, but a coherent one. They believe that the government being involved in health care, either through regulation or subsidies, is the factor driving up prices, and undoing all of that architecture is what’s necessary to allow market forces to drive down prices. Being coherent in this way on health care policy means accepting the trade-offs that your vision entails, and Freedom Caucus members accept that this approach would leave a lot of vulnerable people in the lurch, left to the care of charities and communities. They have an odd belief that a vast majority of the American public shares this vision despite representing only a small percentage of the House of Representatives.”
Slate. Jim Newell http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/03/all_of_the_reasons_why_trumpcare_failed.html
In Major Defeat for Trump, Push to Repeal Health Law Fails
“The Republican bill would have repealed tax penalties for people without health insurance, rolled back federal insurance standards, reduced subsidies for the purchase of private insurance and set new limits on spending for Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers more than 70 million low-income people. The bill would have repealed hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act and would also have cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood for one year.
Mr. Ryan had said the bill included “huge conservative wins.” But it never won over conservatives who wanted a more thorough eradication of the Affordable Care Act. Nor did it have the backing of more moderate Republicans who were anxiously aware of the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment that the bill would leave 24 million more Americans without insurance in 2024, compared with the number who would be uninsured under the current law.
The budget office also warned that in the short run, the Republicans’ legislation would drive insurance premiums higher. For older Americans approaching retirement, the cost of insurance could have risen sharply.”
New York Times. ROBERT PEAR, THOMAS KAPLAN and MAGGIE HABERMAN
Why Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare
“Let me briefly try to answer this question: How did Republicans fail to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act? In no order, and off the top of my addled mind at the end of a crushing week:
— They hated Obamacare but they never understood the Affordable Care Act. This is the uber-explanation for much of what follows. Hating Obamacare became just what you did on the right. It didn’t mean you understood it, beyond maybe getting that it was a government program and thus paid for by taxes. It certainly (and this turned out to be very important) didn’t mean you had any ideas about what it did, how it worked or how many people were benefiting from it … or how to replace it.”
The Washington Post. Jared Bernstein
The Trumpcare Con Implodes
“Passing the bill would have also made a joke of Republican promises that, given the chance, they would replace Obamacare with something that would result in cheaper, better insurance for more people. Trump himself went much further, guaranteeing “insurance for everybody” at government expense. The American Health Care Act was diametrically opposed to those supposed goals.
And that’s what really matters, after all: The practical effects of huge changes to the health care system for those who actually need to use it, alongside the faith Americans can have that their elected officials are making promises they will at least attempt to keep.
Instead, the GOP, from Trump on down, spent years claiming they had a magic plan to make everyone’s health care better, and then tried to bang through a bill in just a few weeks that would have covered fewer people, who would have had to pay much more for whatever care they got, without even reducing the deficit conservatives pretend to care about by all that much. They didn’t even bother waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to assess the final product, so little did they care for the real-world effects it might have.”
U.S.News. Pat Garofalo
Three Real Reasons “TrumpCare” Failed
“Why was the bill so unpopular? First and foremost it’s because most people hate the underlying Republican philosophy pertaining to health care. And they hate it for good reason: it doesn’t work.
We tried the GOP philosophy of allowing the “competitive” market to provide the “most wonderful health care plan in the world” and it produced a system that resulted in per person health care costs twice as high as the rest of the industrial world and outcomes that were worse. That was the world of pre-ACA health care.
The “unfettered market” allowed insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions – and to define one of those “pre-existing conditions” as simply being a woman. It allowed them to enforce lifetime caps on coverage – so if you got really sick you were simply out of luck.”
The Huffington Post. Robert Creamer
The cruel double standard that may have saved Obamacare
“But others cite another factor: The face of Obamacare is now white.
More Americans now realize Obamacare helps millions of working class whites and that it’s not — as once portrayed by conservatives — a form of welfare pushed by the first black president to help people of color, historians and scholars say. The media landscape is filled with images of the furrowed brows of anxious white residents at congressional town halls who fear they will suffer if they lose Obamacare, says Judy Lubin, a sociologist and adjunct professor at Howard University in Washington.
“When you see white working-class Americans saying that I’m benefiting and my family is getting help from the Affordable Care Act, you start to hear ‘repair’ not ‘repeal,'” Lubin says. “Whites standing up in support of a policy changes the dynamics of the conversation.”
CNN. John Blake
“For seven years — seven years — Republicans thundered about the evils of Obamacare, yearned for the day when they could bury it and vowed to do precisely that once the ball was in their hands.
Last week proved that this had all been an emotional and theatrical exercise, not a substantive one. The ball was in their hands, and they had no coherent playbook. No real play. They scurried around the Capitol with their chests deflated and their tails between their legs.
For the entirety of his campaign, Donald Trump crowed about his peerless ability to make deals, one of which, he assured us, was going to be a replacement for Obamacare that would cut costs without leaving any Americans in the lurch.
Last week proved that there was no such swap, that he hadn’t done an iota of work to devise one and that he was spectacularly unprepared to shepherd such legislation through Congress. As his promise lay in tatters at his feet, he gave a delusional interview to Time magazine about what an infallible soothsayer he is, then tried to shift the blame to Democrats, who, he said, would soon be the ones hankering for an Obamacare replacement.”
New York Times. Frank Bruni
Trump: I never said repeal and replace would come in 64 days
“Yet asked if he would talk to Democrats now that Republicans are moving on, Trump said no.
“I think we have to let Obamacare go its way for a little while, and we’ll see how things go. I’d love to see it do well, but it can’t. I mean, it can’t,” Trump said. “It’s not a question of, ‘Gee, I hope it does well.’ I would love it to do well. I want great health care for the people of this nation, but it can’t do well. It’s imploding and soon will explode, and it’s not gonna be pretty. So the Democrats don’t wanna see that so they’re gonna reach out when they’re ready. And whenever they’re ready, we’re ready.” “
POLITICO. Nolan D. McCaskill
With GOP Plan Dead, Trump Weighs Other Ways to Reshape Health Care
Republicans have ability to make changes to Affordable Care Act but do so at their own risk
“With the collapse of Republicans’ health plan in the House on Friday, the Trump administration is set to ramp up its efforts to alter the Affordable Care Act in one of the few ways it has left—by making changes to the law through waivers and rule changes.”
Wall Street Journal. Stephanie Armour
Most pregnant women with Zika will eventually wind up at academic medical centers for prenatal care and delivery by a perinatologist, with newborn care provided by a comprehensive team of pediatrician sub-specialists including neonatologists and pediatric neurologists. The earlier during the pregnancy the better!
Highlights from August’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinating Council
Kevin Chason, DO, of the Mount Sinai Health System, shared how his system uses the emergency management structure to coordinate preparedness and response to Zika virus. A multidisciplinary team co-led by representatives from the emergency management and infection control departments has been meeting regularly since May. Key focus areas are patient communication, provider guidance, tracking and monitoring of specimens, and staff safety.
Zika continues to infiltrate US, 20 babies born with Zika-related birth defects
Twenty babies in the U.S. have been born with Zika-related birth defects and 749 pregnant women have lab evidence of possible Zika infection as of Sept. 15, according to the CDC’s most recent update.
There are 3,358 people in the U.S. with the mosquito-born and sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. as of Sept. 21. Of those, 28 people were infected via sexual contact.
Additionally, the CDC reported 43 of the total cases were acquired from mosquitoes in Florida. However, the Florida Department of Health lists its number of locally acquired Zika cases at 92 as of Sept. 22.
Doctors Brace for Zika Babies
This month, the first group of babies in Puerto Rico known to have been exposed to the Zika virus in their first trimester are being born. Pediatricians do not know what to expect.
“This is not like any other outbreak or epidemic,” said Dr. Fernando Ysern, a pediatrician in Caguas, Puerto Rico, who is the president of the Puerto Rico chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In the pediatric field, Zika looms as a kind of developmental doomsday virus, attacking the vulnerability of early brain development, striking at the neurological basis of human potential. While Puerto Rico, a United States territory, will experience the first wave of children affected by Zika, the rest of the United States is bracing for the spread of the virus.
Everyone knows, including our physicians, that proper hand washing is the most effective patient safety measure right?
Your physician and other clinicians (e.g. nurses, PTs, lab techs drawing blood) should wash their hands before and after each patient, and when beforehand wash in front of the patient.
Do you ask “Doctor, Did You Wash your Hands?” If not, why not?
First some history.
“Ignaz Semmelweis, a young Hungarian doctor working in the obstetrical ward of Vienna General Hospital in the late 1840s, was dismayed at the high death rate among his patients.
He had noticed that nearly 20% of the women under his and his colleagues’ care in “Division I” (physicians and male medical students) of the ward died shortly after childbirth. This phenomenon had come to be known as “childbed fever.” Alarmingly, Semmelweis noted that this death rate was four to five times greater than that in “Division II” (female midwifery students) of the ward.
One day, Semmelweis and some of his colleagues were in the autopsy room performing autopsies as they often did between deliveries. They were discussing their concerns about death rates from childbed fever.
One of Semmelweis’ friends was distracted by the conversation, and he punctured his finger with the scalpel. Days later, Semmelweis’ friend became quite sick, showing symptoms not unlike those of childbed fever. His friend’s ultimate death strengthened Semmelweis’ resolve to understand and prevent childbed fever.
In an effort to curtail the deaths in his ward due to childbed fever, Semmelweis instituted a strict hand washing policy amongst his colleagues in “Division I” of the ward. Everyone was required to wash their hands with chlorinated lime water prior to attending patients. Mortality rates immediately dropped from 18.3% to 1.3% in 1848 in Semmelweis’ division. (A)”
(1861) “…. Louis Pasteur was showing the world that microorganisms did indeed exist, that they acted on our world in myriad ways and that the ancient wisdom about “bad vapors” and spontaneous generation were wrong. Dead wrong. Prior to Pasteur and what would become known as “germ theory,” the prevailing theories held that organisms, like maggots and fleas, were spontaneously originated from other matter, like raw meat or diseased flesh…..
Pasteur is credited with opening the world’s eyes to the new science of microbiology and ushering in a brand new form of preventive medicine: immunization. …Building on what Pasteur was discovering, British surgeon Lister began to use this new germ theory to demonstrate the lifesaving value of disinfectant. Despite his skill at surgery, Lister knew that half his amputee patients would die of infection after the procedure…..
He began to treat his surgery equipment, before and after use, with carbolic acid. He also treated his patients’ wounds with it…..within two years, operative mortality decreased from nearly 50 percent to just 15 percent.” “Much of the greatness of Pasteur and Lister lies in their dogged persistence to spend 20 years convincing the rest of the medical world of the truth of their investigations,” ….. (B)
“What Dr. Towsend did next was something that Joseph Lister, despite years spent traveling the world, proving the source of infection and pleading with physicians to sterilize their hands and instruments, had been unable to prevent. As the president (Garfield) lay on the train station floor, one of the most germ-infested environments imaginable, Towsend inserted an unsterilized finger into the wound in his back, causing a small hemorrhage, and almost certainly introducing an infection that was far more lethal than Guiteau’s bullet.” (C) (1881)
FAST FORWARD 150 YEARS. 50% COMPLIANCE.
“Why Hospitals Want Patients to Ask Doctors, ‘Have You Washed Your Hands?’
It’s a simple enough request, but for patients and families who feel vulnerable, scared or uncomfortable in a hospital room, the subject can be too intimidating to even bring up with a doctor or nurse: Have you washed your hands?
Hospitals are encouraging patients to be more assertive, amid growing concern about infections that are resistant to antibiotics.
Strict hand hygiene measures are the gold standard for reducing infections associated with health care. Acquired primarily in hospitals but also in nursing homes, outpatient surgery centers and even doctor’s offices, they affect more than one million patients and are linked to nearly 100,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC aims to engage both patients and caregivers in preventing dangerous hospital infections. Centers for Disease Control.
Yet despite years of efforts to educate both clinicians and patients, studies show hospital staff on average comply with hand-washing protocols, including cleansing with soap and water or alcohol-based gels, only about 50% of the time. (D)
In can be done! “How a team of doctors at one hospital boosted hand washing, cut infections and created a culture of safety.” (E)
BUT! THE MOST EFFECTIVE SOLUTION IS FOR YOU AS A PATIENT TO ASK “Doctor, Did You Wash your Hands?” Every time!
(C) DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC, 2011
To fight Zika, Central Florida hospitals and doctors ramp up patient education, surveillance
In the fight against the spread of Zika, local doctors and hospitals are ramping up education and surveillance in Central Florida to contain the spread of the virus.
There is a heavy emphasis on patient education, while providers are on high alert for travel histories and on the lookout for potential cases that should be tested for Zika.
“There’s a limit in what we can do to reverse the effects of Zika,” said Dr. Vincent Hsu, hospital epidemiologist at Florida Hospital. “So what we do is a combination of supportive care and making sure that babies are referred to the right specialists. It’s really ensuring that there’s coordination of care among specialties.”
“We haven’t had pathogens in the past that have done all of these,” said Dr. Asim Jani, hospital epidemiologist for Orlando Health.
Jani and Hsu are former CDC disease detectives. The two have been collaborating since earlier this year to align their health systems’ Zika preparation efforts, most of which involve updating and educating their staff on the evolving Zika screening and testing guidelines.
The two systems, which have well-established labor and delivery units and maternal-fetal specialists, have also taken on the responsibility of caring for pregnant women who test positive for the Zika virus.
Johns Hopkins Opens Unique Comprehensive Care Center for Zika Virus Led by the Wilmer Eye Institute
As the number of patients with Zika virus grows worldwide, Johns Hopkins Medicine announces the opening of the new Johns Hopkins Zika Center, dedicated to caring for pregnant women and newborn babies, but also men and women of all ages with the mosquito-borne and sexually transmitted virus. The center will focus not only on diagnosis and treatment of infected individuals but also on the assessment of long-term effects, as well as new approaches to prevention and treatment of Zika virus infection. It is composed of providers and staff members from adult and pediatric departments and divisions within Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, including cellular engineering, epidemiology, infectious diseases, maternal-fetal medicine, neonatology, neurology and neurosciences, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, physiotherapy, psychiatry, psychology and social work. Medical experts from Brazil, a country greatly affected by Zika virus, are also members of the center.