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 →

PBS’s ‘This Emotional Life’: Mental Health and the Family Tree0

The Huffington Post first published this article on September 20, 2010.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”— Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy

Thanks to the recent closing of many mental health facilities as a result of today’s tough economic times, the subject of mental illness has been getting a lot of attention lately. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 26.2 percent of Americans aged 18 and older — that’s one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Though no one likes to think of the possibility, the chances that a family will at some time face the specter of mental illness within its ranks are all too real.

While concern for those directly plagued by psychiatric issues is certainly a priority, surprisingly little information is geared toward the effect such an illness has on the loved ones and friends of the sick patient. Unlike cancer or heart disease, whose conditions can be qualified, psychiatric disorders continue to stand as an enigma to much of the modern world. This often leaves those closest to the patient wondering both how to feel and what to do when dealing with the ramifications that are sure to present themselves.

Read more →

Why We Must Care About Medicare0

California Healthcare News published this article, Why We Must Care About Medicare, on October 11, 2016.

istock_000015363174_large“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

A Federal Circuit Court of Appeal recently commented, “Medicare is, to say the least, a complicated program.” United States health insurance for people 65 and older has 37,000 separate guidance documents online at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), myriad federal regulations expounding upon 50 years of statutory direction, and a legion of Federal Court decisions adding even more detail. To be sure, health care providers should exercise great caution before sharing in Medicare’s $650 billion annual fund. Unfortunately for those ambivalent about Medicare with all of its complexities, not to mention anyone who outright hates the program, resistance is probably futile. … 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 →

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 →

CMS Quality Measures0

iStock_000016711099Small-300x225This Health Law e-Bulletin, published on March 20, 2015, summarizes the 2015 National Impact Assessment of CMS Quality Measures Report (the “2015 Impact Report”) (as mandated by section 3014(b), as amended by section 10304, of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”)).

What if one day the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) changed the ways in which the Federal Government taxed individuals? For example, rather than assessing tax liability on the basis of income, what if the IRS assessed taxes on the basis of an individual’s contribution to society, or on his or her general demeanor or overall perception as “good” or “bad”? Under the ACA, Medicare has started to transform in such an historical manner, reimbursing hospitals now (and physicians soon) on the basis of performance, efficiency, and patient satisfaction, gradually replacing the previous system that structured reimbursement on the costs involved in the delivery of health care. The 2015 Impact Report represents the second assessment by CMS since the ACA became the law in 2010, this time focusing on 25 CMS reporting programs and nearly 700 quality measures (using data from 2006 to 2013).

The ACA mandated a push toward high-quality, evidence-based care for patients, with top priorities including (1) making care safer, (2) ensuring that each person and family are engaged, (3) promoting effective communication and coordination of care, (4) promoting the most effective prevention and treatment practices, (5) working with communities to promote wide use of best practices to enable healthy living and (6) making quality care affordable. The 2015 Impact Report provides a 262-page scorecard for those who may be interested in the ACA’s success during its first few years.

CMS is committed to quality measurement as it transforms the very nature of modern American health care. The 2015 Impact Report illustrates how providers, private payers, and communities can work together to achieve the greatest impact on quality. As stated in the 2015 Impact Report: “Everyone receiving healthcare in the nation is likely to benefit from CMS programs and initiatives, as healthcare professionals engage in delivery system reform to achieve better care for patients, better health for the U.S. population and lower costs through quality improvement.” The complete 2015 Impact Report can be found here.

Updates for Individuals and Families from the IRS0

Updates for Individuals and Families from the Internal Revenue Service

This e-Bulletin from the Health Law Committee of the Business Law Section for the California State Bar regarding updates for individuals and families from the IRS was published on January 27, 2015.

Tax Form with StethoscopeThe Affordable Care Act’s impact on tax provisions in 2014 was significant, especially relating to individuals and families. IRS Publication 5187 provides an overview, explaining how taxpayers satisfy the individual shared responsibility provision by enrolling in minimum essential coverage, qualifying for an exemption, making a shared responsibility payment, and the new premium tax credit. The IRS also has a useful chart showing the ways in which health insurance qualifies as minimum essential coverage.

The IRS also published new forms for 2014, including Health Coverage Exemptions (Form 8965), Premium Tax Credit (Form 8962), and Health Insurance Marketplace Statement (Form 1095-A).

The IRS also issued Revenue Procedure 2015-15 which provides the 2015 monthly national average premium for qualified health plans that have a bronze level of coverage for taxpayers to use in determining their maximum individual shared responsibility payment under Section 5000A(c)(1)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code. Effective January 1, 2015, the maximum monthly national average premium for qualified health plans that have a bronze level of coverage and are offered through the Health Insurance Exchanges is $1,035 for a shared responsibility family with five or more members.

Finally, true to the Affordable Care Act’s commitment to transparency as it relates to health insurance benefits and coverage, on December 30, 2014, the Departments of the Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services released the Summary of Benefits and Coverage and Uniform Glossary (79 Federal Register 78578).

PBS’s ‘This Emotional Life’: Mental Health and the Family Tree

iStock_000013313388Small“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” — Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy

This article also appears on the Huffington Post.

Thanks to the recent closing of many mental health facilities as a result of today’s tough economic times, the subject of mental illness has been getting a lot of attention lately. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 26.2 percent of Americans aged 18 and older — that’s one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Though no one likes to think of the possibility, the chances that a family will at some time face the specter of mental illness within its ranks are all too real.

While concern for those directly plagued by psychiatric issues is certainly a priority, surprisingly little information is geared toward the effect such an illness has on the loved ones and friends of the sick patient. Unlike cancer or heart disease, whose conditions can be qualified, psychiatric disorders continue to stand as an enigma to much of the modern world. This often leaves those closest to the patient wondering both how to feel and what to do when dealing with the ramifications that are sure to present themselves. … Read more →

The World’s Largest Hospital — Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in South Africa0

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in South Africa is the largest hospital in the world. Located southwest of Johannesburg, the Hospital expands over 173 acres, consists  of 429 buildings, and has 2,964 beds.

The Hospital is the only public hospital providing medical care to approximately 3.5 million, and as a specialty hospital, patients travel there from all over the country and the surrounding African nations. The hospital employs almost 5,000 people, including 600 doctors and 2,000 nurses. … Read more →

England and Organ Recovery

England’s National Health Service (NHS) established in 2005 a Special Health Authority, the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). NHSBT’s mission is “the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood, organs and associated services to the NHS.”

NHSBT recently announced that in 2010 there were more than 6,900 organ and cornea transplants throughout the United Kingdom, and over 2 million donations of blood were collected in England and North Wales. 2010 also saw a record number of patients across the UK receive a transplant while the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register reached 17.7 million.

According to Lynda Hamlyn, Chief Executive at NHSBT:

“We rely entirely on the generosity of donors who make the difference to so many patients who need lifesaving transfusions and transplants. I would like to thank every one of our regular blood donors and those who have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register. This has allowed us to help save and improve more lives in 2010 than ever before. [¶] Donation saves lives, and as we start a new year and a new decade, I would encourage anyone interested in helping save and improve the lives of others to consider becoming a blood donor, if they can, and joining the NHS Organ Donor Register by calling 0300123 23 23 or visiting our websites. [¶] Our priority is to maintain the goodwill and support of our generous donors – be they blood or organ. But at the same time we are mindful of the current economic climate and are particularly proud that we achieved these record results while continuing to deliver overall cost savings of nearly £30million. Money that can be reinvested in front-line patient care in the wider NHS.”

Even while the UK saw more transplant operations in 2010 than ever before, an estimated 10,000 patients remain in need of a transplant in the UK. About 3 people a day will die before an organ becomes available. Hamlyn noted: “Thanks to the altruism of donors and their families, a record number of organs were made available for transplantation in 2010 and a record number of peoples’ lives were saved or improved as a result.”

The full announcement can be read HERE.