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Tag: Center for Public Integrity

Kill the Codes

Oh, that clever Center for Public Integrity.  Look what they’ve gone and done now!  My, oh my.  According to the article, doctors are much of the the problem, billing “billions” of Medicare upcharges according to the center.

But what if the medical coding game itself is flawed?  Stop for a moment and imagine what it would look like if lawyers billed like doctors.  Suddenly, we see how bizarre the world of government billing codes and chart-completion mandates has become.

Not long ago I asked readers what my time is worth on a per-hour basis.  Collectively and independently, they settled on a number of about $500/hr (see the comments).  Now look for a moment at what Medicare pays, even at its highest level of billing for a physician’s time for evlauation and management of a medical problem: for 40 minutes of a physician’s time, it’s $140 (or $210/hr) before taxes.  Again, we see another disconnect as to how doctors are valued in our current system.

Doctors are working long hours to collect these fairly low fees from Medicare while jumping more hoops than ever to do so.  They have become pseudo-experts at the coding game, trying to get as much money for their extra efforts as legally possible.  But these fees paid by Medicare do not cover payments for time spent on phone calls, e-mails, and working insurance denials.   These services are still considered by our system as gratis. To partially counteract this coding problem, doctors realized (and the government insisted) that doctors use electronic medical records.

But when independent doctors set out to implement these records they quickly discovered that the expense and long-term maintenance costs of local office-based EMRs could not compete with more sophisticated systems already in use by their neighboring large health care systems.  Because of ever-increasing cost-of-living and overhead costs, not to mention the threats of large fee cuts, doctors have migrated to large health systems faster than ever.  With the fancier electronic record at those systems (streamlined for billing, collections, and marketing) fields required for higher billing codes (but not always material to the problem at hand) are completed in less time.  So are doctors really the problem?

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Database of Bad Doctors Blocks Public From Seeing Names

Picture 26In the mid-1980s, incompetent and negligent doctors were moving freely between states, with state licensing boards and hospitals largely oblivious to lawsuits or disciplinary actions in other locations that might have flagged bad providers.

In response, Congress passed the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, which created the National Practitioner Data Bank, a repository of information that includes malpractice payments, license revocations and loss of clinical privileges for physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and other professionals . “The NPDB is primarily an alert or flagging system intended to facilitate a comprehensive review of health care practitioners’ professional credentials,” says the Department of Health and Human Services, which maintains it.Continue reading…

CDC Officials Blocked Public Health Report

The Center for Public Integrity, a public interest investigative journalism organization, has obtained copies of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of environmental and health data in eight Great Lakes states that was scheduled for publication in July 2007. The report, which pointed to elevated rates of lung, colon, and breast cancer; low birth weight; and infant mortality in several of the geographical areas of concern has not yet been made public.

A few days before the report was slated to be released, it was pulled. Meanwhile, at precisely the same time, its lead author, Christopher De Rosa, has been removed from the position he held since 1992.  The Center for Public Integrity is asking why.

The study, “Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in Twenty-Six U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern” was developed by the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the request of the International Joint Commission, an independent U.S-Canadian organization that monitors and advises both governments on the use and quality of boundary waters.

The CDC report brings together two sets of data: environmental data on known “areas of concern” — including superfund sites and hazardous waste dumps — and separate health data collected by county or, in some cases, smaller geographical regions.Continue reading…

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