Category: Science and Other News

U.S. Busts 243 Providers for $713 Million Medicare, Medicaid Fraud

man-in-wheelchairThis blog does not often congratulate the Obama administration. However, it has been relatively successful at prosecuting Medicare fraud through old-fashioned, gum-shoe type investigations.

From yesterday’s news:

In Miami, the owners of a mental-health treatment center allegedly billed Medicare for tens of millions of dollars’ worth of intensive therapy that actually involved just moving people to different locations. Some of them had dementia so severe that they couldn’t even communicate.

And in Michigan, another physician allegedly prescribed unnecessary narcotic painkillers in return for the use of his patients’ IDs to generate additional false billings. When they tried to escape the scheme, authorities say, he threatened to cut off the medications, to which his patients were addicted.

In the single largest crackdown in an eight-year campaign against health-care fraud, the Justice Department charged 243 people Thursday with $712 million in false billings to Medicare — the medical insurance program for the elderly — and Medicaid, which serves the poor. (Lenny Bernstein & Sari Horwitz, “Government arrests 243 in largest crackdown on health-care fraud,” Washington Post, June 18, 2015)

88 Percent of Nurses Use Smartphones at Work

Patients and providers alike use mobile technology. New data from market intelligence provider InCrowd indicates that the majority of nurses, 93 percent, own smartphones.

Of these nurses, 88 percent use their smartphones’ apps on the job. Though smartphones are becoming integrated into the daily nursing workflow, the majority of nurses are absorbing the costs themselves. Approximately 87 percent of nurses reported their employers do not cover any costs related to smartphone use.

Less than 1 percent of nurses indicated that smartphone use was prohibited on the job. (Carrie Pallardy, Becker’s Hospital Review, June 3, 2015)

I’m all in favor of information technology, but might this not pose a risk to privacy? I had understood most hospitals had very strict policies on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

Health Jobs Growth Doubled in May

This morning’s employment report was greeted as good news, with 280,000 jobs added in May. Health hiring doubled its April pace, adding 47,000 jobs (versus only 22,000 in the previous report), comprising about one of six nonfarm jobs. At a seasonally adjusted growth rate of 0.31 percent, health jobs are still growing faster than non-health jobs (0.18 percent)

As shown in Table 1, job growth continues to be concentrated in ambulatory settings, while nursing and residential care facilities added few jobs.

T1

Health Construction Spending Lags

In response to some comments about the role of health facilities construction in the economy, I’ve decided to add a few lines about today’s construction spending report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Year on year, total construction spending increased by 4.8 percent through April, to just over one trillion dollars, of which about 40 billion dollars (four percent) was health facilities construction. Health construction spending grew only 2.6 percent, much less than all construction and the 9.2 percent growth in nonresidential non-health construction.

$725 billion of the total construction spending was private, of which a little less than half was residential and a little more than half nonresidential. Private health facilities construction accounted for $31 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent, versus 13.9 percent growth in private nonresidential non-health construction. (Private residential construction collapsed over the twelve months.)

$9 billion of government health construction spending comprised 3.24 percent of all government construction spending ($281 billion), and dropped by 11 percent over the twelve months.

Can You Pay Poor People To Quit Smoking?

Peter Orszag was President Obama’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Like many high-ramking Democrats, he landed on his feet as Vice Chairman of Citibank. He also writes a very good column for Bloomberg View.

His latest column discusses financial incentives to quit smoking. Unfortunately, it ignores an obvious challenge to the thesis he supports: That poor people can be paid to quit smoking. Read more below the fold.

New Ventures Make Obamacare Exchanges Less Relevant Than Ever

One theme of this blog is that Obamacare exchanges make as little sense for health insurance as a DMV-operated exchange for car insurance, or a HUD-operated exchange for homeowner’s insurance. Just shut them down.

We’re not the only ones who noticed:

Looking to provide health insurance to the 53 million Americans who don’t get benefits from their employers, Stride Health has raised $13 million in new funding.

Venrock led the Series A round, with participation from Fidelity Biosciences and previous investor NEA, which brings Stride’s total venture funding to $17.5 million.

For the freelancers and independent contractors who make up one third of the U.S. labor force, Stride offers a hassle-free alternative to Healthcare.gov.

After you enter your own data, including age, gender, location, and illness history, Stride’s forecasting model evaluates how much care you’ll use throughout the year, prices it on every health plan, and couples it with the coverage price to show you the total cost of each plan. (Christine Magee, TechCrunch)

Private investors are putting their own capital at risk to launch a business to compete against a government monopoly. That shows how useless Obamacare’s exchanges are.

Memorial Day Wishes

We at NCPA wish you a safe and pleasant Memorial Day. While you are celebrating the start of summer, please remember those for whom the day is commemorated.

Dec

We”ll be back on Tuesday.

The Clinton Foundation’s Health Care Funders

Here is a list of the U.S.-based businesses, professional & trade associations, charities, individuals, and academic institutions in the healthcare sector who have given at least $100,001 to the Clinton Foundation, either as donations or speaking fees, compiled from the foundation’s website:

$1,000,001 to $5,000,000

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Humana, Inc.

Pfizer, Inc.

Tenet Healthcare Corporation

Electronic Health Records: Not Just An American Problem

A few years ago, this blog discussed the failure of government-dictated Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the United Kingdom.

In Australia, the Liberal-National coalition government has decided to scrap the nation’s Electronic Health Record, blaming the previous Labour government for the current one’s failings. Unfortunately, the government plans to replace it with a new one, instead of leaving well enough alone:

The Abbott Government will deliver a rebooted personalised myHealth Record system for patients and doctors that will trial an opt-out, rather than opt-in, option as part of a $485 million budget rescue package to salvage Labor’s failed attempts to develop a national electronic medical records system.

Opt-out rather than opt-in? Doesn’t that sound kind of like a mandate? It’s an odd choice for a government that espouses free-market principles.

Malpractice By Electronic Health Record

Arthur Allen of Politico exposes yet another reason for doctors to fear Electronic Health Records: Their errors lead to lawsuits:

Medical errors that can be traced to the automation of the U.S. health care system are increasingly an issue in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Some of the doctors, attorneys and health IT experts involved in the litigation fear that safety and data integrity problems could undercut the benefits of electronic health records unless HHS and Congress address them aggressively.

“This is kind of like the car industry in Detroit in 1965,” says physician Michael Victoroff, a liability expert and a critic of the federal program encouraging providers to adopt EHRs. “We’re making gigantic, horrendous, unsafe machines with no seat belts, and they are selling like hot cakes.

Readers of this blog know why they are selling despite their serious flaws: The government has thrown almost $30 billion at hospitals and physicians to cause them to buy them.