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News

Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
   Incomes
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: RT Out, Pembrolizumab In, and Vaccine
   Hope or Hype
Dental Visits May Prevent Pneumonia
Hospital Employment of Physicians Does Not Improve Quality
Clinton's and Trump's Positions on Major Healthcare Issues

 

For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.

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Entries in physician (4)

Tuesday
Nov132018

New Center for Physician Rights

Cases of unfair physician treatment by regulatory boards and hospitals have been well publicized. However, little action to insure oversight of physician regulatory bodies has been done. Physicians who believe they have been subjected to unfair discipline now have a place to turn for information, advice, and support. The new center called The Center for Physician Rights (CPR) was founded by Kernan Manion, MD. According to their website the Center will offer:

  1. Free confidential case review;
  2. Case consultation and coaching;
  3. Serve as a central authoritative informational and consultative resource;
  4. Pursue organizational and legislative change.

CPR will develop an informational website and produce a monthly e-newsletter / blog updating subscribers of relevant developments. They hope to serve as the definitive “go to” knowledge resource by establishing a centralized reference library with essential resources based on their extensive research and cumulatively accruing knowledge of judicial decisions, case trends and operant medical licensing boards.

Manion’s own career-ending experience with the North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB) was well publicized (1). His case dates back to September 2009, when he worked as a civilian psychiatrist under contract with the Deployment Health Center at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. After he raised concerns with the US Navy and a personnel contractor about what he believed was dangerously deficient care of active duty service members who had posttraumatic stress disorder, he was dismissed. Later an anonymous source raised concerns about his mental health, which resulted in an investigation by the North Carolina Medical Board. Although an independent, comprehensive psychological evaluation determined he had no mental disorder or other psychological impairment, an assessment by the Board concluded otherwise, and he was forced to deactivate his medical license. In 2016, he launched a lawsuit against the NCMB, which was ultimately unsuccessful on appeal because it exceeded the time limit for filing a petition. Manion blamed the NCMB for using stall tactics to delay the legal process.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

Reference

  1. Anderson P.  One-Man Fight: MD Takes on State Medical Board, PHP. Medscape. November 8, 2016. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/871569 (accessed 11/13/18).

Cite as: Robbins RA. New center for physician rights. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;17(5):137. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc116-18 PDF 

Tuesday
Feb132018

Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News for Physicians

In the early morning hours last Friday (2/9/18) Congress passed and President Trump signed a massive budget agreement (1). The spending package will cost about $320 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Payments for healthcare substantially increase under the deal. Most praised the agreement. "Congress made the right choice this morning for patients and communities by voting to halt damaging cuts to hospitals that care for low-income working families and others who face financial challenges," said Dr. Bruce Siegel, CEO of America's Essential Hospitals, which represents the nation's safety-net facilities. Marc Goldwein of the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget called the healthcare provisions the one "beacon of light" in what otherwise is an exorbitantly costly budget bill. Goldwein praised its mix of structural reforms with "reasonable policy” and liked that the bill pays for the increased healthcare spending.

The bill extends Medicare physician fee cuts that provide about $38 billion in offsets to the increased spending (2). The bill preserves the planned physician fee cuts at 0.5% in 2018 but would reduce the cut to 0.25% in 2019. Not all were pleased by the continuation of the cuts. Calling it "contrary to Congress' intent” ACP President Jack Ende called on Congress to enact permanent relief from the physician fee cuts.

Other major healthcare provisions include (1,2):

  • Continued funding for community health centers for two years.
  • A two-year delay to the already-in-effect payment cuts to Medicaid disproportionate-share hospitals (DSH) which predominately represent safety net hospitals.
  • A two-year delay in the low-volume adjustment program which predominately affects rural hospitals.
  • An additional 4-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which had received a 6-year extension in the continuing resolution that was approved in January.
  • Forcing pharmaceutical companies to pay 75 percent of the cost of drugs for seniors in Medicare’s coverage gap a year earlier than planned.
  • Repeal of the "therapy cap”, a move long pushed by therapy provider groups and the American Association of Retired Persons. This would permanently repeal Medicare's coverage limit on physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and outpatient treatment.
  • $6 billion for the opioid epidemic, which will go toward state grants, public prevention programs, and law enforcement.
  • Funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which helps at-risk pregnant women and families navigate the social safety net.
  • A reduction in Medicare payments to Home health agencies. They're expected to lose $3.5 billion in Medicare payments starting in 2020 due to a change in the way Medicare calculates annual payment updates.
  • Funding the Chronic Care Act, which opens up new flexibilities for Medicare Advantage and care for chronically ill Medicare beneficiaries.
  • A 2-year delay in implementing The Affordable Care Act's high-cost plan tax, popularly known as the “Cadillac tax”. This was a 40 percent excise tax on employer plans exceeding $10,200 in premiums per year for individuals and $27,500 for families. The tax is now scheduled to take effect in 2020.
  • Repeal of Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Provider groups from the American Medical Association to the American Hospital Association applauded the move, even though Congress has never triggered the panel, which was charged to find and implement Medicare savings.

However, not all were pleased by the repeal of cost containments. IPAB repeal doesn't cost much in the grand scheme of things, said Mark Goldwein from the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget but “the long-term policy implications are huge, and a big mistake” (2). Kaiser Family Foundation Senior Vice President Larry Levitt chided that the bill demonstrates “…healthcare cost containment generally seems better in theory than in practice” (2).

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Luthi S. Beacon of light: Healthcare additions in budget law pleasantly surprise providers. Modern Healthcare. February 9, 2018. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180209/NEWS/180209895 (accessed 2/12/18).
  2. Ault A. Trump signs budget deal, cuts Medicare fee in 2019. Medscape. February 9, 2018. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/892491 (accessed 2/12/18).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Healthcare payments under the budget deal: mostly good news for physicians. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;16(2):88-9. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc032-18 PDF 

Friday
Jul142017

Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit

Several sources are reporting a lawsuit filed in California alleging poor care in the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal (1). The suit alleges that Medi-Cal failed to pay doctors enough to provide proper care. The suit was filed by five Latino residents on behalf of California’s 13 million lower-income residents, more than half of them Latinos. The suit alleges that "…California has created a separate and unequal system of health care, one for the insurance program with the largest proportion of Latinos (Medi-Cal), and one for the other principal insurance plans, whose recipients are disproportionately white.”

The state budget includes $107 billion in state and federal funding for Medi-Cal this year, but the spending is not enough to restore reimbursement cuts made during the Great Recession of 2008. A proposal in the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Health Care law (ACA, Obamacare) could drastically reduce funding for Medicare and the individuals who can access it.

Thomas Saenz, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund who filed the lawsuit, said he believes it is the first time the civil rights approach has been tried in California. According to Saenz this legal approach is possible because California is one of the few states to specifically prohibit discriminatory effects in state programs.

Other states in the Southwest also have disproportionately large Hispanic populations in their Medicaid programs (Table 1).

Table 1. Percent Caucasian and Hispanic total population/Medicare population by State (2,3).

Reimbursement does appear disproportionately low in California which ranked 48th in the nation in 2015 in how much it paid hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers for treating Medi-Cal patients, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (4). In the Southwest the state with the highest reimbursement was Nevada (5-10). California reimbursement averaged only 47% of Nevada reimbursement for the procedures listed (Table 2).

Table 2. Medicare reimbursement for common procedures by state (4-9).

The reason for the wide differences in reimbursement rates is unclear but is likely historical dating back to cost containment programs from the 1980’s and 90’s (11). The differences do not appear to be explained by differing costs of living. None of the procedure reimbursements correlated with the cost of living in the largest city in each state (Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, Albuquerque, Honolulu, and Las Vegas, p>0.1, all comparisons).

The chances of the lawsuit’s success are unclear since there is no precedent. However, it seems likely that if the suit is successful, more suits will be filed since California Medi-Cal’s situation of disproportionately providing care to minorities is not unique.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Thompson D. Latino plaintiffs sue California alleging poor health care. Associated Press. July 12, 2017. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/latino-plaintiffs-sue-california-alleging-poor-health-care-48592841 (accessed 7/13/17).
  2. Kaiser Family Foundation. Population distribution by race/ethnicity. 2015. Available at: http://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D (accessed 7/13/17).
  3. Kaiser Family Foundation. Distribution of the nonelderly with Medicaid by race/ethnicity. 2015. Available at: http://www.kff.org/medicaid/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity-4/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D (accessed 7/13/17).
  4. Dickson V. Low Medi-Cal payments could weaken expanded coverage for undocumented children. Modern Healthcare. June 17, 2015. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150617/NEWS/150619908 (accessed 7/13/17).
  5. California Department of Health Care Services Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal Rates. June 15, 2017. Available at: https://files.medi-cal.ca.gov/pubsdoco/rates/rateshome.asp (accessed 7/13/17).
  6. Arizona Health Cost Containment System. Physician fee schedules. 2017. Available at: https://www.azahcccs.gov/PlansProviders/RatesAndBilling/FFS/Physicianrates/ (accessed 7/13/17).
  7. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Provider rates & fee schedule. June 2017. Available at: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/hcpf/provider-rates-fee-schedule (accessed 7/13/17).
  8. Quest Hawai’i. Medicaid fee schedule. 2013. Available at: http://www.med-quest.us/ (accessed 7/13/17).
  9. Nevada Division of Health Care Financing and Policy. Fee schedules. Available at: http://dhcfp.nv.gov/Resources/Rates/FeeSchedules/ (accessed 7/13/17).
  10. New Mexico Human Services Department. New Mexico Medicaid fee for service CPT code fee schedule. 2017. Available at: http://www.hsd.state.nm.us/uploads/FileLinks/e7cfb008157f422597cccdc11d2034f0/7.17_CPT_Codes__2_.pdf (accessed 7/13/17).
  11. Tatar M, Paradise J, Grafield R. Medi-Cal managed care: an overview and key issues. Kaiser Family Foundation. Mar 02, 2016. Available at: http://www.kff.org/report-section/medi-cal-managed-care-an-overview-and-key-issues-issue-brief/ (accessed 7/13/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Medi-Cal blamed for poor care in lawsuit. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;15(1):42-4. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc091-17 PDF 

Tuesday
Sep202016

Hospital Employment of Physicians Does Not Improve Quality

The Annals of Internal Medicine posted a manuscript on-line today reporting that the growing trend of physician employment by hospitals does not improve quality (1). In 2003, approximately 29% of hospitals employed members of their physician workforce, a number that rose to 42% by 2012. The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study of U.S. acute care hospitals between 2003 and 2012 and examined mortality rates, 30-day readmission rates, length of stay, and patient satisfaction scores for common medical conditions for 803 hospitals that switched to the employment model compared with 2085 control hospitals that did not switch. Switching hospitals were more likely to be large (11.6% vs. 7.1%) or major teaching hospitals (7.5% vs. 4.5%) and less likely to be for-profit institutions (8.8% vs. 19.9%) (all p values <0.001).

The authors used Medicare Provider Analysis and Review File (MedPAR) from 2002 to 2013 to calculate hospital-level risk-adjusted performance on mortality, readmissions, and length of stay for acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. Hospital Compare data from 2007 to 2013 was used to assess overall patient satisfaction. After conversion to a physician employed model, no difference was found in any of 4 primary composite quality metrics with the single exception of readmission rates for pneumonia. That decline was modest (19.3% vs. 19.1% readmissions) and judged not likely to be clinically significant by the authors.

Recently, Baker and colleagues found that hospital employment of  physicians is associated with higher spending and prices (2). This data combined with the data from the present study suggest that the trend is for higher healthcare costs without an improvement in quality. Commenting in Medscape Richard Gunderman, a well-known healthcare delivery researcher from the University of Indiana, said that those who think quality comes from increasingly larger organizations with more advanced information technology and greater standardization across the system will see these results as surprising and disappointing (3). Pointing to high levels of burnout and widespread complaints of lack of time with patients, Gunderman said less physician control over individual patient care has taken a toll. "There's no doubt that a demoralized workforce will tend to drive quality down," he said. "Many hospitals and health systems around the country are grappling with poor and, in some cases, dismal engagement scores. I think that's an indication that a lot of physicians feel that the changes taking place across healthcare are problematic."

Funding for the study was provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Limitations of the study was that the patients were primarily Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older. Therefore, the applicability of the findings to a younger population is unknown, however, the authors doubted that after switching to an employment model, hospitals would improve care for one group and not another.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Scott KW, Orav EJ, Cutler KM, Jha AK. Changes in hospital–physician affiliations in U.S. hospitals and their effect on quality of care. Ann Intern Med. 2016. Available at: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2552987 (accessed 9/20/16). [CrossRef]
  2. Baker LC, Bundorf MK, Kessler DP. Vertical integration: hospital ownership of physician practices is associated with higher prices and spending. Health Aff (Millwood). 2014 May;33(5):756-63. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Frellick M. Physician employment by hospitals does not improve quality Medscape. September 19, 2016. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/868978?nlid=109338_2863&src=wnl_dne_160920_mscpedit&uac=9273DT&impID=1200121&faf=1#vp_2 (accessed 9/20/16). 

Cite as: Robbins RA. Hospital employment of physicians does not improve quality. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2016;13(3):133-4. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc099-16 PDF