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 →

Supreme Court Decision Adds More Confusion to False Claims Act0

This article, Supreme Court Decision Adds More Confusion to False Claims Act, was first published July 12, 2016 at California Healthcare News.

Wooden puppet with a headache

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” — Dante Alighieri

As modern medicine continues its attempts to bridge the gap between body and mind to provide more comprehensive care for patients, so too must the Federal Government address this gray area while endeavoring to regulate care for those less tangible medical issues of the mind.  The already elaborate labyrinth known as the Medicare Act has recently grown even more chaotic under the recent Supreme Court decision Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States (ex rel. Escobar), which further blurs the line between false and fraudulent claims.

Teenage Medicaid beneficiary Yarushka Rivera sought guidance at Arbour Counseling Services in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The facility diagnosed Rivera as bipolar, although the Arbour “Ph.D.” rendering this opinion failed to disclose that her degree was from an unaccredited Internet-based college, or that Massachusetts had rejected her application for licensure as a psychologist. Twenty-three other Arbour “clinicians” also lacked the purported mental health professional licensures Arbour professed to represent. Not surprisingly, the service’s “prescribing psychiatrist” was in fact a registered nurse who lacked the credentials to do so. Arbour also misrepresented various payment codes, such as “family” or “individual” therapy, and it was discovered to have lied in its attempt to garner National Provider Identification (NPI) numbers for its non-practitioners. Needless to say, Rivera’s mother Carmen Correa and stepfather Julio Escobar were not pleased upon learning of the facility’s transgressions from an Arbour counselor five years into Rivera’s treatment.Read more →

Health Care’s Unfinished Bridge0

This article, Health Care’s Unfinished Bridge, was first published in California Healthcare News on April 5, 2016.

Health Care's Unfinished Bridge“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

Every era relies on the intuition of a talented few in its search for scientific breakthroughs. Herodotus rejected the notion the Earth was flat, and in particular its description on the Shield of Achilles in Homer’s Iliad. Some 29 centuries later, science has reduced the labors of Homer to little more than myth, though philosophy still honors the epic, from its very first word (“μῆνῐν” or “wrath”) to its lesson addressing the value of balancing excessive pride with the fear of anonymity. Similarly, advances in technology have greatly benefited medicine in recent generations, as doctors increasingly approach diseases of the body from a tangible perspective. However, the treatment of diseases of the mind continues to be far more speculative in nature, serving to highlight the chasm between these two seemingly similar but ultimately disparate fields. This in turn presents a complex issue for both medical practitioner and mental health provider. … Read more →

Health Care Is Not One Word Or One Person0

This articleHealth Care Is Not One Word Or One Person, first appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal on February 24, 2016.

Health care is not one word or one person

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” — Oscar Wilde

With the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court has lost a brilliant legal scholar and formidable protector of the U.S. Constitution. Scalia both earned respect and instilled fear during his 30-year tenure supervising America’s political climate. While his legacy ought to take precedence during this time of mourning, widespread panic over the future of health care reform threatens to overshadow the passing of Scalia the individual in favor of highlighting the ways in which his unexpected death may advance partisan agendas.

History has shown that a single justice can have a dramatic effect on the formation and defense of policy. In 1896, Justice John Marshall Harlan disagreed with those Supreme Court justices who believed that the Constitution allowed “equal but separate” public transportation accommodations for black and white citizens. His solitary dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson argued otherwise, stating that the Constitution did not create a “superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens” in the United States, and that the Constitution was itself color-blind. Fifty-eight years later, a unified Supreme Court made history with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in holding that “separate but equal” had no place in public education.Read more →

The Health Care We Are Left With0

This article, The Health Care We Are Left With, was first published in Corporate Compliance Insights on January 6, 2016.

iStock_000007436109_Medium“Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”  Winston Churchill

Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA) six years ago, the nation’s struggle over the proper provision of health care has been fought on many fronts, with both sides remaining passionately true to their convictions. As is the case with many of our nation’s historic battles, the American people may be remiss to disregard the impact of these struggles upon the evolution of our current health care structure. Like the January 3, 1777 Battle of Princeton during the American Revolution or the October 8, 1962 Battle of Perryville in the Civil War, many smaller events that appear understated or unimportant often have a long term impact. Instances where both patients and providers initially underestimated would-be tenets of the ACA can offer as much insight as outright Congressional mistakes in crafting the law. On the cusp of the iron anniversary for health care reform, this article offers examples of both the ACA’s shortcomings and successes. After all, too much of the planet’s most common element (at least by mass) can cause cirrhosis of the liver or arthritis, while a deficiency in iron can result in anemia. The following are topics that were resolved in 2015, as well as those for which 2016 may bring some clarity.Read more →

Health Care Unhinged0

This article, Health Care Unhinged, first appeared in California Healthcare News on November 3, 2015.

iStock_000054577884_Large“And though she’s not really ill | There’s a little yellow pill | She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper | And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day.” — Sir Michael Philip Jagger and Keith Richards

To date, there exists no thermometer to measure vacillations in a person’s mental health, which is a good thing for febriphobics, and generally speaking, neither acetaminophen nor ibuprofen can cure mental illness, especially if the diagnosis is pharmacophobia. Unlike a fractured bone or sinus infection, ailments of the mind tend to be subjective and therefore more difficult to gauge. Just as a diagnosis of schizophrenia relies on a spectrum, psychotic examples range from hallucinations to speech impediments (even for glossophobics), and bipolar affective disorder by definition alternates between periods of elevated mood and depression. While the tenth revision of the medical classification system known as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) contains more than 14,400 different physical health concerns, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), still hovers around a paltry 300 disorders from which to choose.

We Know What We Do Not Know

The dearth of clearly identifiable mental disorders is a disheartening factor for the 3.1% of American adults who have presented with serious psychological distress within the past 30 days, or the 1.5 million hospital inpatients discharged with psychosis as the primary diagnosis, the average length of stay for whom was 7.2 days (and this not fast enough for those inpatients with nosocomephoia). Add to such dismal figures some 63.3 million visits to doctors (not including iatrophobics), as well as emergency departments or other outpatient clinics, and top off the numbers by including the 41,149 suicides that took place in 2013 (which equates to 13 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people), one does not need a PsyD to identify a serious problem.Read more →

Medicare – Bridging the Gap Between Ridiculous and Sublime0

This article, Medicare — Bridging the Gap Between Ridiculous and Sublime, was first published in California Healthcare News on July 13, 2015.

Digital Illustration of a Chair
Between the Ridiculous and Sublime

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” — Salvador Dali

Somewhere in Rural America

Settled in 1845, the city of Sumter rests in the bucolic middle of South Carolina and boasts the only public park in the United States containing all eight known species of swan. Originally named Sumterville, this sleepy, rural Southern town has for nearly one hundred years been home to the Tuomey Healthcare System (“Tuomey”), an acute care hospital also providing a 36-bed nursery, 10 operating suites, Cancer Treatment Center, Tuomey Home Services and a subacute skilled care program. As of 2013, and affirmed in June 2015, Tuomey also faced a record-breaking $237,454,195 judgment for violating federal law.

The path leading up to this verdict was a crooked one. As it attempted to hedge projected losses of more than $15 million at the turn of the millennium over the next fifteen years, Tuomey knew the treacherous landscape into which it entered, and from the outset had no intention of navigating the federal physician self-referral prohibitions (commonly known as the “Stark Laws”) or the Federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) alone. To secure its end, Tuomey consulted with a former Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, a prominent health care law firm, and its longtime counsel, Nexsen Pruit, who in turn sought assistance from a national consulting firm. While implementing new contracts with local physicians, Tuomey’s lone hold out, Michael Drakeford, M.D., filed the qui tam action in 2005 that resulted in the record-breaking outcome.Read more →

The Decay in Regulating California’s Corporate Practice of Medicine0

This article, The Decay in Regulating California’s Corporate Practice of Medicine, first appeared in the Business Law News (Issue 2, 2015) of the State Bar of California on June 24, 2015.

ToothThere is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”[1]

         In the 1990s, dentists in North Carolina[2] began to whiten teeth.[3] A decade later, nondentists across the state began to provide the same services, but at a lower price.[4] In 2006, the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners (the “N.C. Dental Board”) responded by issuing more than 47 cease-and-desist letters to parties whitening teeth without degrees in dentistry, and in 2007 the N.C. Dental Board enlisted the aid of the North Carolina Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners to issue similar warnings, specifically to cosmetologists[5] Their combined efforts were successful, and North Carolina nondentists soon stopped offering teeth whitening services.[6]

         The United States Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) took exception to the actions by the N.C. Dental Board, and in 2010 the FTC filed an administrative complaint, alleging the N.C. Dental Board acted deliberately for the benefit of North Carolina dentists and to the detriment of North Carolina nondentists.[7] According to the FTC, these anticompetitive and unfair tactics violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, and in particular Section 5.[8]

         After multiple hearings before an administrative law judge, followed by the FTC’s internal oversight and a review by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit[9] in February 2015, the United States Supreme Court[10] agreed with the FTC’s 2010 allegations, namely that the anticompetitive conduct of the N.C. Dental Board violated antitrust law, and in particular the Sherman Act.[11] The Supreme Court also held that sovereign immunity did not protect the actions of the N.C. Dental Board.[12]

         In its 6-3 decision referring to the roles of dentists and nondentists in North Carolina, the Supreme Court reached a far greater audience than those concerned with tooth color in the Tar Heel state.[13] In point of fact, the Court’s ruling did much to undermine most if not all authority held by professional organizations in California, including in particular the Medical Board of California (“MBC”).[14] This article explores how and why such change came about. … Read more →

The Abyss of Managed Care0

This article, the Abyss of Managed Care[1]. was first published on June 24 2015, in the State Bar of California Business Law News, Issue 2 (2015).

iStock_000006020673Large“God hates violence. He has ordained that all men fairly possess their property, not seize it.”[2]

Modern American health care affords every hospital patient the inalienable right to emergency treatment,[3] although this same system has yet to create any parallel infrastructure beyond the clinical delivery of such care. While today’s emergency department physicians across the nation have access to cutting-edge, integrated technology-based tools[4] designed to improve patient outcomes by combining advances in medicine with evidence-based clinical guidelines,[5] the science of overseeing managed care patients often appears to be light years removed from the era in which it was born.[6] As a result, American health care has become a system of fundamental brilliance that finds itself limited by gross inefficiencies,[7] a combination that has led to a symbolic, if not actual, nationwide revolution.[8]

At their core, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act[9] and the amendments set forth in the 2010 Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act[10] address the concept of patient access, one of health care’s greatest challenges in recent years.[11] Notwithstanding the 961[12] regulatory pages known as the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,”[13] the relationship between the patient and the entity responsible for covering the cost of care has received surprisingly less attention in comparison.[14]

In California, the recent decision in Children’s Hospital Central California v. Blue Cross of California[15] has been seen by many as the culmination, and by some as the resolution, of conflict between providers and payers within the managed care system.[16] This article focuses on events preceding the Children’s Hospital Central California decision, how the managed care system of private payers has evolved over the past 40 years, and the challenges faced by payers and providers simply trying to coexist.Read more →