The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule Friday, February 22nd that implements five key consumer protections from the Affordable Care Act, and makes “the health insurance market work better for individuals, families, and small businesses.”
“Because of the Affordable Care Act, being denied affordable health coverage due to medical conditions will be a thing of the past for every American,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Being sick will no longer keep you, your family, or your employees from being able to get affordable health coverage.“
A number of people asked me about the impact of health reform on them as individuals. Here is a great story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that takes specific examples of individuals and families and speculates on how the new bill(s) will impact them.
For 2010, the changes are minimal:
Dependent children may be covered by their parents’ health insurance policies until age 26.
A high-risk insurance pool will open for people with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for six months.
In 2011 Medicare will pay for an annual checkup, and deductibles and co-payments for many preventive services and screenings will be eliminated. The Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole will gradually narrow every year until it is eliminated in 2020. People in the “doughnut hole” could receive a $250 rebate this year.
I have to say that I’ve been dumbfounded by the fury raised over the passage of the new healthcare legislation. I realize that the bills separate people into winners (uninsured, providers with uncompensated charity care, patients with pre-existing conditions, Medicare patients, providers who see Medicaid patients, families with adult children, etc.) and losers (companies who have to pony up more money for their retired employees, insurance companies, illegal immigrants, high wage earners, etc.), but this story placed the fury into a different perspective for me. It’s a good read.
What does healthcare reform mean for the physician practice? Many are predicting the rise of concierge practices (also called boutique medicine, retainer practices, VIP medicine and cash practices) as physicians find they cannot survive if their patient population is predominantly Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients. Concierge practices fall into two categories:
The first operates on an insurance+ model, which means that the practice accepts and files the insurance for the patient, but also requires an additional out-of-pocket fee of anywhere from $1500 to $1800 per year to be a patient of the practice. The fee is to cover services that Medicare and commercial insurance do not, such as physicals, phone consultations, wellness counseling and patient education.
The second operates on a strictly cash basis and the practice does not accept or file any insurance for the patient. The patient pays a flat fee per year for care (usually in the $5,000 to $15,000 range) and all primary care is provided for that amount. The patient still needs to carry insurance for prescriptions, hospital services and sub-specialist services. Imagine being a manager in this type of practice – no pre-authorizations, no insurance department, no eligibility checking, no refunds…
Concierge medicine has not been around that long, but it is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. The first acknowledged concierge practice was formed in 1996 in the Pacific Northwest. In 2002, CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) published a memo stating that physicians may enter into retainer agreements with their patients as long as these agreements do not violate any Medicare requirements. In 2003, the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that concierge medical practices are not illegal. Today, there are approximately 5,000 physicians using the concierge model in the United States today.
MEDICARE CUTS, MEDICARE CLAIMS AND DON BERWICK
Shortly after all the shouting and voting on healthcare reform was over, Congress recessed for two weeks leaving the controversy over the 21.5% cuts required by the SGR formula still unsettled. CMS has advised the MACs to again hold claims for services provided from April 1 to April 10 to give Congress a chance to get back to work and back to voting for an additional delay (or not) for the cuts. If the cuts are allowed to stand, many physicians will start making their own cuts by minimizing the number of Medicare and Medicaid patients they will see.
Amidst this craziness, a voice of sanity is heard and it is Donald Berwick, MD, current President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and probable Obama pick for the head of CMS. If you don’t know Don Berwick or the IHI, click here to read an interview with him about the IHI’s “100,000 Lives Campaign” or watch the video below of him speaking about the dimensions of quality. Good stuff!