Welcome to the Disease Management Care Blog, your host for this edition of the Health Wonk Review. This is a linked summary of the latest and best postings from an informal community of health policy bloggers with informed insights that readers, business leaders, academics and policymakers won't find anywhere else. We invite you to sit back, get a beverage, enjoy a snack and feed your brain as you join thousands of your colleagues and competitors in gaining a deeper understanding of the U.S. health care system.
When when when (of a miscellaneous nature)
When researchers act like politicians: The falsification, fabrication and plagiarism that comprises research misconduct is the topic of a post by Donald Kornfled over at the delightfully named Wing of Zock. Causes include the fear of failure, perfectionism, ethical lapses, grandiosity and psychopathy. Dr. Kornfield reviews potential fixes, including training courses, better mentorship with monitoring and protections for whistleblowers.
When for-profits run amok: Roy Poses at Health Care Renewal scrutinizes one health care system's latest branding campaign and acquisitions, pointing out that the lack of any specificity seems to confirm that this is all about profits, not patients; commoditization, not caring; and corporatization, not community. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. You've been warned.
When outcomes are based on flawed research: David Williams of the Health Business Blog asks Al Lewis why no one believes the numbers that underlie the reported effectiveness of population health management, the medical home and wellness. It's easy, says Al: the math has been unnecessarily complicated, actuaries make mistakes and there's selection bias, regression to the mean, confounders. pressure to show success and, most of all, a widespread and regrettable under-recognition of Al's vast expertise.
No Health Wonk Review is Complete Without the Affordable Care Act
Will it never end? If you're interested in even more obscure legal theorizing over the constitutional legitimacy of the Affordable Care Act, then head on over to the Health Affairs Blog. It appears the ACA may only authorize consumer subsidy tax credits in "state" run exchanges. The failure to include federal exchanges in the legislation could be a pesky wording oversight (argued here by Timothy Jost) that is overcome by a common sense understanding of Congress' original intent, or a craftily worded way of giving the states one more incentive to open their own exchanges (argued here by Michael Canon and Jonathan Adler) that could backfire and conveniently hobble the roll-out of the exchanges.
If you had to pick one good thing about the ACA, would this be it? Have you heard about the ACA's insurance co-ops? Think of these as smaller regional not-for-profit health insurance plans that are sponsored by consumer-based organizations. Jay of the Colorado Health Insurance Insider describes how, thanks to a loan from Uncle Sam, a new rural co-op is being launched in Colorado. It plans to open its doors in 2015 with a target of 10,000 enrollees.
And if you wanted to convince skeptical voters about the rest of the ACA, Anthony Wright of the Health Access Blog reminds us that the Brits proudly featured their National Health Service (NHS) in the Olympic Opening Ceremony for lots of good reasons. The conservative DMCB not only wonders what marketing lessons CMS can learn from this (hint: opening ceremony at the World Series) but it has had its wacky closet Tea Party fears confirmed: "ACA" spelled backwards is "NHS" and its Maximum Kommissar will be First Citizen Don Berwick.
Massachusets reminds of what could follow the ACA: David Harlow of the HealthBlawg looks at what the Bay State is doing now that Romneycare's reforms neglected to tame health care cost inflation: Regulations that prohibit excessive provider price increases,promotion of the medical home and ACOs, greater market transparency, more public financing and physician liability reforms.
And what do the brokers think of the ACA? Hank Stern of the InsureBlog describes a blow back on the insurance provision that excess administrative costs must be rebated back to the beneficiaries. Not only is it very burdensome to calculate in group policies with individual underwriting, but the tax implications are best considered in a "Michelob teaching moment" (that'll make more sense when you read the entire post, but trust the DMCB: it's not good).
Accountable Care Organizations? Amazingly, only one HWR submission!
Is the DMCB really a DmCB? DMCb? Kerry Willis of the Health Talent Transformation blog calls on docs to resist the siren call of the ACOs' easy money. Look closely, he says, and you'll notice a strong resemblance the 1990s-style PHOs that were long on hospitals' interests and short on physicians' needs. He suggests that a better name would have been pHO. That's why he says unless ACOs use the physician-led patient centered medical home or concierge practices, a better name for them would be AcO.
Of Budgets, Priorities (and their evil architects)
In the taxpayers-get-what-they-pay-for-department, Liz Borkowsi of ScienceBlogs reviews a Health Affairs study on physicians' willingness to care for coming wave of new Medicaid beneficiaries. Based on a representative sample of docs, 69% are currently accepting such patients, but the numbers vary by geography (the rate is only 40% in New Jersey, for example). The researchers estimate increasing payment rates to match Medicare's fee schedule would likely increase acceptance by an average of 10 points. One solution is expanding the nation's 8000 community health centers with the $11 billion allocated by the ACA. Unfortunately, that money has been a tempting target for budget-deficit minded politicians.
...and here's more on the taxpayers-get what-they-pay-for: Jason Shafrin of the Healthcare Economist blog looks at Medicare's reimbursement for for Alaskan physicians and finds evidence that new and established Medicare beneficiaries are having trouble finding a primary care physician. It seems the physicians would rather fill their clinics with better paying commercially insured patients. If that income stream ever gets cut off, thinks the DMCB, the docs could always turn to the remunerative world of blogging.
How about what patients don't want to pay for? Medical student Justin Jones examines end-of-life care and finds doctors who forgo aggressive treatment of their incurable cancers may be role models for the rest of us. Yet, despite some compelling anecdotes and the disdain for death panels and cost considerations, the provocative DMCB still wonders how insurers and their risk-bearing providers will reconcile an obvious conflict of interest over death with dignity and reducing claims expense with upside gain sharing.
In the physicians get annoyed-on-how-they're-monitored department, everyone agrees we need to measure health care quality and make providers more accountable. Unfortunately, making that happen in the real world is proving difficult. Brad Flansbaum of the Hospitalist Leader blog offers a quick primer on CMS' early efforts at physician report cards in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska and explores the pros and cons of measurement at the individual, group or hospital level.
Tough Choices: Chris Langston, the Program Director at the John A Hartford Foundation blog points out that the dysfunctional economics of Medicare and Medicaid are ethically troubling. Decreased payments for geriatric services are part of a troubling pattern of discriminating against the poor and elderly. He asks if it's time to recast the political debate over the current scope of government insurance as a beneficiary rights issue.
I knew it! Is Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan a real budget hawk, or is his record in Congress marred by the realpolitik of partisanship and party loyalty? Joe Paduda finds compelling evidence of the latter.
Want more dirt on Paul Ryan? Harold Pollack over at healthinsurance.org says he's "extreme," a "pampered millionaire known to purchase $350 wine" with proposals "opposed by huge middle class constituencies" that would lead "between 14 and 27 million low-income Americans to lose health coverage" and cause "deep" cuts in highway repair, K-12 education, environmental protection, public health and law enforcement."
Heroes vs. affordability: While the U.S. military has increased the visibility of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Lynch Ryan of Workers Comp Insider blog reminds us that our nation's police force members are not immune. Cops are far more likely to die by their own hand than be killed in the line of duty, and their rate of suicide per 100,000 matches the U.S. army. Lynch explores the workman's compensation implications: should treatment of the disabling stress of witnessing violence be covered, or is this part of the job?
Your next host for the Health Wonk Review will be Louise Norris of the Colorado Health Insurance Insider Blog.