A report from one of the largest physician recruiting firms in the country could give some heft to the specialty of primary care (whose disciplines include general internal medicine, family medicine, general pediatrics, and primary OB/GYN). Merritt-Hawkins calls a survey it commissioned as noting a “seismic shift” in medicine, reporting that Americans are spending more money on primary care physicians than they are on specialist care.
For 2013, the median revenue per primary care physician ascribed by about 3,000 hospital chief financial officers is nearly $1.6 million, and it is a little more than $1.4 million for specialists. In 2010, the last time Merritt Hawkins did such a survey, primary care was at more than $1.4 million, and specialties were at nearly $1.6 million. Specialists have outpaced primary care in Merritt Hawkins’ survey, which began in 2002, continued in 2004 and has been conducted every three years since. The survey includes both inpatient and outpatient revenue generated for hospitals, and it does not give an aggregate total of the revenue generated by primary care and specialty physicians.
The article goes on to cite that greater access, afforded by the ACA, means greater emphasis on preventive care, subsequent primary care follow-up and health maintenance, and increased revenue by primary care as a whole. The recruiting firm that sponsored the survey does admit to commissioning it for the purposes of stratifying its ultimate hiring goals for hospitals, but it stresses that its findings are indicative of a healthcare industry in which Obamacare may be playing a more crucial role in modifying — from the supply side, at least. This is good news overall, and it represents news that primary care specialties need as they continue to struggle with the recruiting of medical students who have been shying away from (relatively) lower-paying primary care medical specialties. | LINK
President Obama is getting serious flak from all sides now, with the Big 3 “Scandals” facing him squarely in the face. He really needs some good news on the health reform front — especially as Tea Party cognoscenti are using one of those controversies — the IRS one — to drive home to its faithful that the federal agency is directly responsible for all that we know Obamacare to be.
Obama is on the cusp of a nationwide re-introduction tour, of sorts, designed to assuage voters of the law’s merits. Although the WH will be the first to say that it is unconcerned with the repeated grandstanding of activist groups from the right — the Tea Party, included — it is wasting no time getting the president to trumpet his signature domestic achievement, you know … just in case.
Well, this news ought to put a feather in Obama’s cap:
Massachusetts’ healthcare reform didn’t result in substantially more hospital use or higher costs, according to data presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2013. [...] ”In light of the Affordable Healthcare Act, we wanted to validate concerns that insurance reform would lead to dramatic increases in healthcare use and costs,” said Amresh D. Hanchate, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, an economist at the V.A. Boston Healthcare System and assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine. “We were surprised to find little impact on healthcare use. Changes we saw in Massachusetts are very similar to those we saw in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — states without reform.”
Additionally, there was no statistical difference in these findings when compared to safety-net acute hospitals in the state for the period studied. It’s good news for Obama now that’s he’s off the campaign trail and can claim the Grand Massachusetts Experiment as the test case for reform on a national scale. | LINK
This week’s issue of the NEJM features an original article on the role of midlevel providers — specifically, nurse practitioners (NPs) — in the ongoing evolution of the delivery of ambulatory primary care in this country. As we move closer toward a reality in which access to primary care is essentially mandated, the harsh reality of facing the logistics in providing that increased access is often overshadowed by the current honeymoon period in which proponents of the ACA continue to reside. Perhaps stepping out of that healthcare ivory tower for a moment will shed light on the pending crisis that looms once Obamacare makes its official entrance into the healthcare marketplace next January.
The NEJM blog features this issue in a post that describes the attitudes NPs and MDs have toward each other within the scope of primary care. Both camps are surveyed on not only their biases on how primary care should be delivered in the 21st century in an environment of enormous strain; but also on how they should be reimbursed for services rendered, how they saw their roles within the concept of the medical home, and how their abilities compared with tackling complex medical problems in a collaborative atmosphere. Suffice it to say that responses were unsurprising and unquestionable in their candor — the essential takeaway being that primary care MDs were wary of skill encroachment by NPs, and the latter group favoring a major increase in responsibility in delivering an expanded breadth of primary care. | LINK
In less-than-earth-shattering news, the GOP-led house voted for the 37th time to repeal the ACA, otherwise known as (in bipartisan tones) Obamacare. The vote was a predictable win for the Republicans — 229-195 — and, surprise!, has zero chance of ultimate signature into law by the president. As a matter of fact, the WH tweeted yesterday, in a rather defiant mood,
— The White House (@whitehouse) May 16, 2013
As if a reminder were truly necessary. Wait, perhaps it is…
When asked if he wants to hold yet another vote on the law — after more than 30 have been held since the law passed — Boehner said, “Obamacare is going to drive up the cost of health care, it is going to drive up the cost of health insurance and make it harder for small businesses to hire workers. … I believe that at the core of who I am. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we don’t wreck the best health care delivery system the world has ever known.”
Here’s a sampling of what’s making the rounds in healthcare headlines today.
(1) Angelina Jolie makes the right decision for many. [LINK]
(2) Apparently, oncologists are in agreement. [LINK]
(3) U.S. House gears up for yet another vote on ACA repeal. [LINK]
(4) And, speaking of breast cancer — yep, coffee has a role in fighting that, too. [LINK]
(5) KFF: Just 5 percent account for over half of healthcare spending. (2010) [LINK]
Under the radar, perhaps? One would think that that news of the first Senate-confirmed CMS head in 7 years would get some media play. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Marilyn Tavenner to the post. The last confirmation came at the hands of George W. Bush in 2003, Mark McClellan MD, PhD. Tavenner — a non-physician — served in the interim after recess appointee Donald Berwick, MD stepped down. Berwick was never confirmed by the Senate after remarks he made which were somewhat praiseworthy of the healthcare delivery system in the United Kingdom.
Prior to this installment, Tavenner worked as a healthcare exec for HCA for a quarter century. She started her career as a nurse in her home state of Virginia more than 30 years ago. Her appointment comes with support from advocacy groups such as the AMA, and confirmation was largely a non-controversial event — with bipartisan holdouts (Tom Harkin, D-IA; Orrin Hatch, R-UT) ultimately coming around.
Tavenner assumes the CMS head position at a time when the ACA begins its next chapter — the pending arrival of healthcare exchanges, a reintroduction of the reform law to masses, and ongoing issues surrounding the optional expansion of Medicaid funding by states as a provision of the law. | LINK
Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize a physician’s ability to prescribe lethal medication to the terminally ill patient. The act is significant in this state because it is the result of legislative action. Three other states have had similar measures approved by either referendum (WA, OR) or judicial action (MT). To refresh one’s memory on the breadth of allowable actions a physician and patient may take in this care delivery scenario, Vermont will pattern its approach after methods used in Oregon: stopgap measures to prohibit patient coercion by requiring a waiting “change of heart” period of 15 days, and an evaluation by another provider.
However, the state’s law will prevent criminal charges and investigations filed against participating physicians’ beginning July 1, 2016 — three years after this legislation is to be signed into law in Vermont. Apparently, this gives physicians time to become familiar with the law. At that time, physicians will only be required to utilize informed consent regarding lethal prescriptions only after all reasonable modes of death with dignity have been discussed with the patient, including all available hospice and palliative measures. The patient will then be able to independently make a decision on whether to ask for a lethal treatment. | LINK
Minnesota will become the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage by legislative vote, and it signals the latest victory for those working to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples across the nation. Monday’s action technically repeals a state statute that had prohibited such unions.
Yesterday, the Senate majority leader gave an impassioned speech on the precipice of the vote.
Republicans are going after the red meat in the wake of not one, not two — but three concurrent potential “situations” that make damage control somewhat imperative for the Obama administation. Unsurprisingly, some GOP senators are using these events as a means to undermine the SCOTUS-sanctioned ACA. Whatever becomes of that effort, Republicans have (yet again) been scheduling a time to formally vote on an Obamacare repeal.
Depending on whom you ask, this will be the 33rd or 37th time that lawmakers have attempted to repeal all or part of the health-care reform law, now called “Obamacare” by both critics and supporters. The House is scheduled to vote again this week on a bill to repeal the entire law, a move designed to put about 30 House GOP freshmen on the record as opposing the legislation and supporting a full repeal.
Perhaps playing to the GOP’s base may gain some traction again in the wake of Benghazi, the IRS, and now, the AP scandals. A 37th vote (who’s counting?) on Thursday this week may also serve as a message to new GOP members in the 113th Congress that Republicans have their sights set firmly on 2014. Although this is nothing more than a Groundhog Day moment for the House (the Senate was never considered to take these multiple attempts seriously at potential passage), it is a possible mechanism for stoking the flames of increasing bipartisan concern over how President Obama’s WH is handling things in this very critical moment in his young second term.
House Majority Leader Cantor (R-VA) likes the odds, because apparent support of the ACA is little more south than previous polling has demonstrated — an April Quinnipiac survey [PDF] found voters disapprove of the ACA, 46 percent to 41 percent. By a 37 percent to 15 percent margin, respondents say it would hurt them more than help them personally, while 41 percent say the law wouldn’t affect them. But when it comes to allowing more people in their state to qualify for Medicaid, 48 percent to 41 percent believe expansion is a good idea. Still, the anti-sell on Obamacare is an uphill battle for the GOP, who appear to be taking its current strategy on Obama’s #1 signature domestic achievement from the Election ’10 playbook that drove the House majority back to the GOP.
It is not really clear to me why President Obama feels the need to re-sell the ACA to the masses. After all, the more popular provisions (extensions of coverage to young adult children, abolition of denials for pre-existing conditions, etc.) have been implemented to an eager political and savvy healthcare consumer audience. Along the way, information on the law’s more complex tenets (exchanges) has been filtered out to an increasingly informed electorate.
White House advisers acknowledge they struggled in explaining the complex law to the public when it passed in 2010. Now, with the final components being implemented, Obama allies see a fresh opportunity to sell the American people on the merits of measures that will be central to the president’s legacy.
Ahh, now it makes sense. His legacy. With increasing scrutiny on all issues regarding Benghazi, implications of the fiscal sequestration, and failed attempts at bipartisan support for tougher gun control legislation, the white House has decided that it’s time to give the President’s number one domestic achievement a reboot for the masses.
The president will specifically target women and young people, groups that backed him overwhelmingly during his presidential campaigns. During a Mother’s Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama will promote the benefits of the law for women, including free cancer screenings and contraceptives, and ask moms to urge their uninsured adult children to sign up for the health insurance “exchanges” that open this fall.
How many ways does it take to say “coverage mandate” to those without insurance, and those without Medicare or Medicaid coverage? | LINK
The Commonwealth Fund has released statistics that paint a rather hopeless picture regarding the un/underinsured in this country ahead of full implementation of refrom, come January.
Eighty-four million people―nearly half of all working-age U.S. adults―went without health insurance for a time last year or had out-of-pocket costs that were so high relative to their income they were considered underinsured, according to the Commonwealth Fund 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. …
The report, Insuring the Future: Current Trends in Health Coverage and the Effects of Implementing the Affordable Care Act, finds that the percentage of Americans who were uninsured, underinsured, or had gaps in their health coverage grew steadily between 2003 and 2010, with the number of underinsured nearly doubling from 16 million in 2003 to 29 million in 2010.
Sobering numbers, but the silver lining is one of access once Obamacare kicks in. Problem is, access, only, will not guarantee a ROI of decreased healthcare costs. Other measures needed to grant sustainability to, say, the availability of healthcare exchanges — have to come into play: increasing primary care numbers, expanding Medicaid, and the aggressive promotion of preventive care. | LINK
Back when TIME published its now classic mainstream longform piece “Bitter Pill”, the buzz in the healthcare blogosphere centered around the waste involved in the final point of delivery of care to the patient. Stories of patient woes as they faced outrageously escalating medical bills for treatments for which they thought they were covered were replete in the report. Today, word comes from the piece’s author, Stephen Brill, that HHS Sec’y Kathleen Sebelius will create yet another office of accountability.
Sebelius will release a data file that shows the list—or ‘chargemaster’—prices by all hospitals across the country for the 100 most common inpatient treatment services in 2011. It then compares those prices with what Medicare actually paid hospitals for the same treatments – which was typically a fraction of the chargemaster prices… In the same announcement, Sebelius is offering $87 million dollars to the states to create what she calls ‘health care data pricing centers.’ The centers will make pricing transparency more local and user friendly than the giant data file she is releasing this morning.
After one reads the TIME article, all of this is placed into perspective, and it is easy to see Sebelius’s response to the ongoing inequity between the price, cost, and service (delivery) of healthcare; but, is creating yet another bureaucratic knee-jerk truly the answer here, especially when it is created to simply track public-private cost differentials? Back when this article was published in February of this year, Brill offered his take on some short term responses by public and private entities alike in addressing this problem. Calling upon hospitals to recoup its profits to improve themselves from within; increasing tax liabilities on profits at ambulatory care centers; and proactive approaches on comparative effectiveness research are just some of the conclusions Brill reaches. He goes on to say
There are two reasons why Sebelius’ release of this newly crunched, massive data file is a great first step. First, it reveals the vast disparity between what hospitals charge for pills, procedures and operations and the real cost of those services, as calculated by Medicare. … The second reason the compilation and release of this data is a big deal is that it demonstrates that … chargemaster prices are wildly inconsistent and seem to have no rationale. … and … the release of … data … should become a tip sheet for reporters in every American city and town, who can now ask hospitals to explain their pricing.
Demonstrating transparency is nothing new for regulatory bodies, including the feds — but the devil is in the details. Providing cold comfort to healthcare consumers serves no purpose unless action occurs to address these startling findings. As reform begins to envelop healthcare access and delivery in this country within the next 12 months and beyond, cogent plans to combat pricing and cost will be needed to demonstrate the real reason for reform — increasing access to quality care at a lower cost while abolishing waste.
The vote on marriage equality here in Minnesota is just two days away. The Democratic-controlled Senate for certain has the votes to pass muster. The House, also Dem-controlled, a little less so (or, maybe not as uncertain). However, the Speaker has noted that a vote would not be scheduled until it was certain that there were enough votes to pass the measure. Foes of marriage equality in the state are revved up about this week’s potentially historic vote, which comes as the result of a concerted effort by marriage equality lobbyists and activists alike after a measure by the then GOP-controlled House to pass an amendment to the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage failed via referendum on election day ’12. The Dem governor, Mark Dayton, has vowed to sign the bill into law should it reach his desk.
Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Cmte. voted on whether to get the marriage bill out of its final committee after it was determined how much the ability for same-sex couples to wed would impact Minnesota’s subsidy of healthcare and other benefits with respect to state employee coverage. A paltry amount, to be sure. The bigger issue, at least as it relates to healthcare coverage. For the first time, gay and lesbian married couples – whether they be state employees or not — will have access to partners’ health benefits, giving them parity in the for-profit healthcare marketplace.