The Baucus Plan: Reform or Bailout?

May 23, 2009

On Friday, I received an e-mail from someone who had just visited with several Capitol Hill staffers on health care reform. He was discouraged with the general response that health care reform was done – there was no room for new ideas.

He was promoting EMBRACE, the plan offered by the Healthcare Professionals for Healthcare Reform

Even more discouraging was the perception that Congress had a busy agenda and they were just eager to get this issue behind them.  In addition, he was disheartened by the lack of provider unity on this topic.

He made the comment in his e-mail, “This isn’t health care reform, it’s insurance reform.”

I beg to differ. It is not insurance reform; it is an insurance industry bailout. It is a status quo bailout. Read the rest of this entry »


A True Embarrassment of Riches

January 28, 2009

I have often made the point that a major flaw in the health care  status quo – I balk at using the word “system” – is that no single entity accepts full responsibility.  With very few exceptions, everyone is trying to find someone else to pay the bill or the rest of the bill.

And too often the consumer is the rope in this tug of war.

I received a call from a member.  He wanted to drop his employment based insurance.  Why?  His wife had insurance.  Not an uncommon request in today’s market.  But some questioning revealed that it was a bit more complicated than that.

It seems the member had been admitted for emergency cardiac by-pass surgery.  After the surgery, he was referred to a rehab facility for cardiac rehabilitation.  But the rehab facility refused to admit him until they got clarification on which insurance was primary.

I have determined which insurance is primary.  I think I also understand a possible reason for the confusion.

I can not determine why a provider would deny care – or even suggest that care might be denied – when it was clear that one of the insurance companies would cover the services.

But that’s the way it is when everyone is looking for a way out.

QMCSO – Say what?

December 6, 2008

In my last post, I wrote that health care reform proposals need to focus on the patient side of the health care delivery system by designing systems that eliminate the cumbersome, even tortuous routes that patients must travel to enter that increasingly privileged space – a person with health insurance.

An illustrative example is the Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO).  QMCSOs apply to those children who live with one parent but the court orders the other parent to provide the health insurance.  The parent who has custody of the child is called, logically, the custodial parent.  The other parent is called, can you guess, the non-custodial parent. Read the rest of this entry »

Administrative Simplification

November 8, 2008

Sometimes people are magically teleported outside of their health care silo.

This happened to a group of our participants every month for several consecutive months.
At the beginning of each month one of the members of this group would call our office – “The doctor won’t treat me because he/she was told I have no health insurance.”
Our Plan had recently approved coverage for domestic partners.    Somehow, the computer system of one of our carriers could not properly interpret the code for a domestic partner.    The computer saw this adult as a child.   Read the rest of this entry »

Seven dollars and forty cents – no sense

November 1, 2008

Seven dollars and forty cents hardly seems like an amount that should erect a barrier to health care.

In fact, when Mr. Koch (all names are fictitious) called to complain about this bill for seven dollars and forty cents, my first reaction was, “You should appreciate how lucky you are that you have a health care plan that pays most of your bills. Why are you quibbling over $7.40?”
Of course, that is not an appropriate customer service response.

But listen to Mr. Koch. “This bill is for two pain pills that were given to me when I was admitted to the hospital for an emergency surgery.   Medicare won’t pay for the pills because they were “self-administered.” Read the rest of this entry »

A game of Old Maids

October 18, 2008

Approximately six months ago our office began receiving stacks of paper claims for prescription drugs.  The drugs originated in various Veterans’ Administration medical centers around the country.  They were for drugs that members in our Plan had received at VA medical centers. 

It was obvious that there had been some sort of new policy at the VA that required the VA to obtain payment from other payers when veterans had other coverage.  The problem in this case is that our Plan had just changed pharmacy benefit managers effective January 1, 2008. 

So think about this.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Amazing US Health Care System

October 14, 2008

Amazing seems a most appropriate word to describe the financing and delivery of health care services in the United States of America.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 9th Edition (OK, I have an old dictionary) amazing is derived from a French word meaning “to confuse”.  Obsolete meanings include consternation, bewilderment and perplexing.

Yes, health care in the US is truly amazing.  Rube Goldberg could not have invented a more illogical maze of non-systems.  Lewis Carroll’s might have added an additional chapter on Alice’s efforts to get those pills that made her big and small.  Kafka might imagine a special Penal Colony for those responsible for this maze.

I should be careful on this last point, since I am part of that system. Read the rest of this entry »