Trump Administration Slashes Medicare/Medicaid Payments. Local Hospital Is Targeted

The Peninsula Daily News (PDN) is reporting that the Trump Administration, against the wishes of hundreds of letters and testimony against it, is slashing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursal rates to clinics more than 250ft away from a central hospital. The new rule is called the “CY (for Calendar Year) 2019 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) Payment System”

The rule announcement from July is found at

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-empowers-patients-and-ensures-site-neutral-payment-proposed-rule

and the October 30th update is found here:

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-finalizes-hospital-outpatient-and-ambulatory-surgical-center-policy-and-payment-changes

The goal of the proposed rule was to eliminate patient clinic visits to hospital clinics that charge more than non hospital clinics. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) claims in it’s press release that, “Currently, CMS often pays more for the same type of clinic visit in the hospital outpatient setting than in the physician office setting.” They offer no proof to that claim.

The most affected facility for this on the Olympic Peninsula is Olympic Medical Center’s (OMC) offsite clinics in Sequim. Ironically the clinics serve a population that voted for President Trump in the last election and they will, if this rule is not overturned via legislation, be the most effected by it. The chart at the link below shows how various precincts voted in 2016.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/upshot/election-2016-voting-precinct-maps.html#8.27/47.920/-122.715

The PDN is reporting that payments may be slashed up to 60%, which would apparently make these clinics financially nonviable. Medicare and Medicaid payments today are so lean that many physicians do not take new Medicaid/Medicare patients because they cannot survive on the reimbursal rates.

The outcome of this will be that seniors and the poor will have to travel further for medical care, and that some hospitals, like OMC may be forced to close their remote facilities and possibly even put their main hospitals in financial jeopardy. Hospital closings in the last decade in rural areas have reached new highs, leading to rural areas often being the most under-served areas for healthcare in the country. Forbes magazine, in 2017, had an article that researched the issue and found that “Approximately 2300 rural hospitals are in the United States. Of those, 81 have closed since 2010.” Forbes went on to show how President Trump’s proposed healthcare cuts were putting “673…at risk of closing”. The full story from Forbes is available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/bisnow/2017/07/26/obamacare-repeal-could-cripple-rural-hospitals-and-lead-to-more-closures/#6dbd6b4f42b8

It is not known how this will affect Jefferson Healthcare (JHC) as they have kept their clinics within the required 250 yard rule. They have worked around the issue by setting up their clinics in Quilcene and Port Ludlow in a different legal framework. They claim that they will be less affected.

There have been rumors from healthcare providers that other standalone clinics may be affected, those not attached to a hospital. We will track those as we hear from the community. Your comments and insights are welcome to be sent to albergstein@gmail.com

What is happening is an ongoing push to centralize healthcare in urban centers and reduce the costs. While healthcare costs are rising, much of these costs are centered in the last years of life. Our insistence on providing all out high cost medical support to terminally ill patients, for example, rather than focusing on expanded hospice care has led to a heavy weighing of costs to end of life medical intervention. From personal experience, I can say that in some locales there seems to not be honest dialogue between patient and provider about the likelihood of a successful outcome, leading to the patient not knowing that they are essentially terminally ill and wanting to continue, under the providers suggestions, with expensive treatment that will only likely extend life a few months.

Medical providers are also, due to litigation costs, often insisting on far more tests than necessary, driving up costs. There is no easy route out of that issue, as patient expectations are not often aligned with actual healthcare scenarios and outcomes. The inability to also properly judge physician history and ratings also make it hard for patients to know when some providers have a history of malpractice.

But the slashing of medicaid and medicare costs to OMC and other hospitals like it, is a cynical ploy by the Trump Administration and Congress to do a stealth attack on these services, one which was highlighted in an article last month.

Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, recently said he wants to take aim at “entitlements” as early as “next year.” A few months earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he wants to see policymakers bring the budget closer to balance by cutting “entitlements.” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who currently chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, made the same argument in August.

And now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making the identical pitch.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/mcconnell-eyes-cuts-medicare-social-security-address-deficit

This all comes after slashing taxes to the wealthiest Americans and corporations earlier in the year.

It is worth remembering that this administration and previous ones have spent approx. $170M a day for 16 years funding the war in Afghanistan. We have the money to fund Medicare and Medicaid at appropriate levels. It’s all about priorities.

Just last month, our legislators from both Clallam and Jefferson counties, including some of our county and hospital commissioners and executives, traveled to Washington D.C. and met with numerous staffers, both at the White House and Congress. Some of them, such as Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler, was not in Washington and sent out a staffer who knew nothing of the issues.

It remains to be seen if our legislators can fix this problem in Congress next year. If you want to help ensure it gets done, vote Democratic on Tuesday November 6th. Putting Democrats at least in charge of the House will allow a real debate and bipartisan approach on how this all proceeds. Representative Kilmer, who is up for re-election, along with other Democratic Representatives have been fighting hard to protect rural hospitals. These politicians are not perfect. None of them will agree with all of us all the time. That’s just not how this representative democracy works. But these Democratic politicians in our district have a track record and to elect more Republicans and expect a different outcome seems unrealistic.

Otherwise these kind of cuts are going to continue to come at us, with the outcome being far worse healthcare options for all of us, no matter who you voted for in this election. This is not “making America great again.”

The final rule will appear in the November 13, 2015 Federal Register and can be downloaded from the Federal Register at: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.

 

Open Enrollment: Seven insurers offering plans for 2018

Open enrollment for 2019 coverage will run from November 1, 2018 to December 15, 2018.

Source: https://www.healthinsurance.org/washington-state-health-insurance-exchange/

All counties will have 2019 exchange coverage, but 14 (up from 9 this year) will have only one insurer; average proposed rate increase is more than 19 percent

Washington marketplace highlights and updates

Source: https://www.healthinsurance.org/washington-state-health-insurance-exchange/
Follow us: @EyeOnInsurance on Twitter | healthinsurance.org on Facebook

 

ONLINE EVENT: “TrumpCare and Medicare for All’” John Geyman, MD

From the Physicians for a National Healthcare Program Western Washington (PNHPWW)  October 17th Meeting Agenda

John Geyman, MD, will be with us via the internet from his home in Friday Harbor to describe his just-released book “TrumpCare: Lies, Broken Promises, How It Is Failing, and What Should be Done” that has four goals: 1) to describe TrumpCare; 2) show how it is failing patients, families, taxpayers, and the nation: 3) describe the growing crisis is health care in this country; and 4) to compare the only two real alternatives before us – continuance of TrumpCare or moving to single-payer Medicare for All. Also, John will compare HR 676 and S 1804 and give us his thoughts about their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Geyman is Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has spent 25 years in academic medicine as Chairman of the UW Department of Family Medicine and was founding editor of The Journal of Family Medicine. He is Past President of PNHP and a PNHPWW Board Member. He has now written more than 12 books that are indispensable for understanding the roots of our health care crisis, its current condition, and what must be done to achieve a just and sustainable replacement.

The meeting will be live-streamed via the Zoom Meeting platform beginning at 7:20pm (PST).
Join by internet link – https://zoom.us/282725280 or by phone – 1-669-900-6833 or 1-929-436-2866

Meeting ID: 282-725-280

 

Trump Administration Guts Title X funding for most clinics

The Trump administration has radically changed the Title X funding model. It is going all out to cut funding to any women’s health care clinic that provides any kind of abortion counseling services. Here’s some of the details.

Require that Title X funded activities have full physical and financial separation from abortion-related activities. In addition to separate accounting and electronic and paper health records, providers would need to have separate treatment, consultation, examination and waiting rooms, office entrances and exits, workstations, signs, phone numbers, email addresses, educational services, websites, and staff. This new requirement would essentially disqualify any provider from receiving Title X funds if they also offered abortions.

Link to the PDF of the full report

Issue-Brief-Proposed-Changes-to-Title-X-Implications-for-Women-and-Family-Planning-Providers

 

 

 

Why Is A Healthcare Workers’ Union Giving Money To Republicans?- The Stranger

This is an odd story, but points out the dangers of supporting your enemy. And let’s be clear, when it comes to making healthcare better in this country, the Republicans are the enemy of that goal. They have fought for every opportunity to make things better in favor of religious fundamentalist goals that deny healthcare to women and other low income populations, and they have shown no interest in improving anything but the bottom line of their donors. The SEIU 1199, in supporting a Republican over a Democrat simply because the R was at one time a nurse, is absurd, since this former nurse is working against their interests.

https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2018/05/21/26378644/why-is-a-healthcare-workers-union-giving-money-to-republicans

Bad bedside manner: Bank loans signed in the hospital leave patients vulnerable – Seattle Times/Kaiser Health News

Just when we think the American healthcare system can’t get any worse, hospitals and banks figure out a way to take us further into debt. Just what a person who is brought into the ER wants to see, a banker show up. It’s like a sick joke.

Here’s a very telling stat from this article: In 2016, the federal government estimates, consumers spent $352.5 billion out-of-pocket on health care.

We *think* we have it good. We could have paid for universal healthcare with that amount.  You are essentially being taxed on that money, but it accrues to the sickest of us and the bulk of that money is spent in the last 6 months of life. To put it in perspective the US spent $584 B on defense, $588B on Medicare and $368B on Medicaid.

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/bad-bedside-manner-bank-loans-signed-in-the-hospital-leave-patients-vulnerable/