Repealing the Affordable Care Act – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?0

California Healthcare News first published Repealing the Affordable Care Act — What Could Possibly Go Wrong? on January 9, 2017.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act What Could Possibly Go Wrong?“Necessity is not an established fact, but an interpretation.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Evolution or Devolution?

In a constant state of flux, the American health care system has struggled to exist in the present since the introduction of Medicare in 1965.  Both in terms of medical care and its delivery, our nation’s health care system must continually evolve if it is to keep up with advances in science, technology and the treatment of disease, as well as the way we access these advances. As a result, each generation’s health care must balance providing that which has come to be expected with the need to expand coverage and modern methods of care.  As a nation, we depend upon those in highest office to monitor such changes, adding provisions where applicable and paring down what is no longer practical. Much of the divided nation fears that come January 20, 2017, Barack Obama’s legacy, the Affordable Care Act, may find itself vulnerable to a single stroke of the pen, potentially leaving millions of Americans without meaningful access to medical care. Others will celebrate as Donald John Trump accepts the role of 45th President of the United States. The only immediate certainty for modern American health care is that both sides will continue to argue whether the Affordable Care Act is a frivolous luxury or a social necessity. … Read more →

The Beginning of Health Care Reform Nears Its End0

This article was first published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal on December 16, 2013.

iStock_000023873789SmallNow this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” — Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

The countdown to 2014 has begun. In the days to come, millions of Americans will choreograph exactly where to be at midnight on New Year’s Eve, full of resolutions and expectations for the coming year. This January 1 holds a special significance for our country, as the dropping of that massive 11,875-pound ball in New York City’s Times Square represents what many have for four years hoped to be the heralding of an epic transformation in our nation’s health care. Though unable to predict the future as in fairy tales of old, the descent of that Waterford crystal ball marks the coming of age of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), still shrouded in controversy and fighting for a foothold on which to support itself. … Read more →

A Lesson from the Sneetches0

This Practitioner Application to the article “Post Acute Care and Vertical Integration After the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (by Patrick D. Shay and Stephen S. Mick) appeared in the January/February Edition (Volume 58, No. 1) of the Journal of Healthcare Management.

In his classic tale “The Sneetches,” Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss, 1961) created a society divided by entitlement in which the lines of separation were removed, thrusting its members together. A satire about discrimination, “The Sneetches” offers children an early introduction to the arbitrary walls that those forces governing society can build and destroy at their whim.

Shay and Mick may be said to describe a similar scenario as they apply provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA ) to post-acute care and vertical integration under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (also known as accountable care organizations or ACOs) and to bundled payment systems. They note that these are the areas in which the influences of the ACA are most apparent. In the process, Shay and Mick remind us that perception is formed largely on the basis of factors lurking beneath the surface that care little for public opinion. For example, much like Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches, Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast shoreline in October 2012, rendered the “haves” and “have nots” almost indistinguishable. Bellevue Hospital, the oldest hospital operating in the United States, was capable of offering roughly as much care during and immediately following the hurricane as it was in 1736, when the New York City Almshouse designated six bedrooms as Bellevue’s first “ward.” … Read more →

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CMS Issues Final Rules for EHR Incentive Programs, Stage Two0

FIRST THERE WAS HIPAA

In 1996 the Federal government took on increased regulatory responsibility with the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

This multifaceted bill was broad in its jurisdiction over  both Medicare and American health care in general, as it sought to provide new Federal rules improving continuity  or “portability” of coverage in the large group, small group, and individual health insurance markets, while reinforcing the need to protect the privacy of patient health records.

Combining a group of disparate issues, Title I of HIPAA amended the Public Health Service Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. In doing so, HIPAA strove to regulate the availability and scope of group health plans and many individual health insurance policies, including the protection of health coverage for workers and their families who have lost or changed jobs. … Read more →

Final Rules for Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the final rule for the Medicare inpatient prospective payment systems (IPPS) for the 2013 fiscal year (effective for discharges occurring on or after October 1, 2012).  The final rule revises the IPPS for operating and capital-related costs of acute care hospitals and incorporates certain statutory provisions contained in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended in part by the  Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Additionally, the final rule updates the rate-of-increase limits for certain hospitals excluded from the IPPS, as well as the payment policies and annual payment rates for the Medicare prospective payment system (PPS) relating to long-term care hospitals. The final rule changes the ways in which a hospital determines its full-time equivalent (FTE) resident cap for graduate medical education (GME) and indirect medical education (IME) payments.

The final rule also establishes requirements for the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program and the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.

The entire final rule, which will be codified in 42 CFR Parts 412, 413, 424 and 476 can be seen here.

An Overview of the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program0

Section 3001(a) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes a new section 1886(o) to the Social Security Act and amended 42 U.S.C. § 1395ww to establish the hospital value-based purchasing (VBP) Program.

Under the VBP Program, beginning October 2012 hospitals will face a 1% reduction overall on Medicare payments under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS), as these funds will be used to pay for the performance bonuses under VBP Program. By 2015, hospitals that continue to show poor performance ratings will not only be excluded from the bonus pool, they will also face additional cuts in reimbursement. … Read more →

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT0

March 23 marks the two-year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s ambitious and controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While the ultimate legacy of this landmark legislation remains to be seen, its fate will soon rest in the hands of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and then possibly the Electoral College.

With talk of constitutional challenges and potential repeal sharing headlines almost every day, now is the perfect opportunity to trace the changes in American health care over these past 24 months.

As our health care system continues to experience growing pains, certain basic tenets of reform have already made their mark, and may be difficult to retract in the event of the bill’s failure. The number of insured young adults under the age of 26 has continued to rise since 2010, as has the estimated 105 million Americans who no longer face lifetime limits on health benefits. Statistics also point to 50,000 newly insured who had in the past failed to qualify for health insurance due to pre-existing conditions.

Across the nation, individual states are gearing up for health insurance exchanges, while hospitals and physicians prepare for monumental changes in the Medicare reimbursement infrastructure as it transitions from a historically cost-based to a performance-driven platform.

Under the reform bill, the Federal Government has increased its presence with an unprecedented focus on eliminating health care fraud, abuse and waste.

Thanks to the Office of the Inspector General, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Department of Justice having procured health care fraud-related settlements and judgments in excess of $3 billion last year (capping the largest three-year streak in history with a total of $8.7 billion since January 2009), health care providers are now busy crafting or fine tuning their own custom-tailored compliance programs.  At the same time, providers must also fight off Medicare and Medicaid related audits from a number of newly created entities known only by their acronyms (RACs, MICs, MACs and ZPICs to name a few).

No matter what effects the Supreme Court’s decision and upcoming elections may hold for the Affordable Care Act, it is clear that American health care will never be the same.

Only time will offer any definitive perspective for us to evaluate the changes it has imposed upon the delivery of our nation’s health care.

Welcome to health care reform, year three, as it promises to be a busy one.

Our Fear of Health Care Reform and the Household Vacuum0

“That’s the nice thing about carousels, they always play the same songs.”  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This article first appeared on the PBS affiliated website This Emotional Life.

It starts with a vacuum.

The sudden, unfamiliar dissonance signals fear in his little mind, which grows quickly, magnified by the sight of an unexpected entanglement between the woman he trusts most and this monstrous machine. As he turns to run (or crawl), I find myself thankful to be just inches away, in perfect position to catch my 10-month old boy as he does his best to flee the frightful scene. His two outstretched arms secure a tight grip around my neck, while a sad face burrows deep into my chest. For one sharp moment I feel like a hero, a wholly necessary, trustworthy entity whose sole purpose is to be relied upon in times of trouble.

Fear is a formidable foe, and the ways in which we as grown ups react to its presence can often be inconsistent. Regardless of its origin, any meaningful cause for alarm typically signifies a commonality of chaos, to be first understood, and then vanquished. Though my son’s safety was obviously never compromised during his run-in with the vacuum cleaner, his reaction illustrates the fact that in the eyes of an infant the world is full of uncertainties. In the mind of a child, laughter and tears coexist every day, yet we seldom stop to consider how these emotions actually resonate. Rather, we tend to focus on the cause, which with luck might lead us to a solution, as a means to restore the calm and save the day. Indeed, some of the most seasoned parents have an entire cache of remedies upon which to rely when a crisis hits, and they wield them like weapons of precision, each one crafted and selected for just the right moment.

But what about the child in the midst of a trauma?  … Read more →

Advice from Antiquity0

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”  — Albert Einstein

This article first appeared on the PBS affiliated Website This Emotional Life.

Every so often I stop to reflect upon the seemingly random series of events that have led my life to its current point. In times like these my mind rarely gravitates toward any single individuals who left lasting impressions, positive or negative, but instead remains fixed on the patterns that have emerged over time.  Make no mistake, I still search for a seemingly insignificant or banal event from my past that might offer some magical context to help define the person I have become, especially in light of my newfound fatherhood.  And yet, while I am not holding out for such an epiphany any time soon for myself, such a revelation could do wonders for my son as he crawls faster and faster toward the conclusion of his first year.

At the age of eleven, I read my first Greek myth, and I was hooked. Eleven years later, I graduated from college with a major in classical studies, a discipline I have described as familiarization with an abundance of Greek myths experienced in a written rather than spoken format, in a language that dates back seven to ten thousand years.  From this historical depository of dactylic hexameter and Socratic dialogue, a few key tenets have remained permanently etched in my brain, and it is not uncommon for me to draw upon these scraps of wisdom on any given day. While often overshadowed by the technological advances that largely define our fast-paced modern society, I continually find that those bits of knowledge I learned twenty years ago are more than enough to help me navigate through even the most baffling of days.

Victory comes to men in turns.”

This famous quote from a traditional English translation of Homer’s Iliad is a source of comfort and hope in troubled times as well as a gentle reminder for us all to strive for humility at any stage. … Read more →