Tag: centers for medicare and medicaid services

Improving the Hospital Compare website

January 17th, 2014 by

HealthLeaders’ Cheryl Clark has done a commendable job in identifying 12 changes she’d like to see on Hospital Compare, the quality reporting website run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. You should read the article for the details.

I don’t disagree with any of the recommendations, but there are four in particular that I’d like to highlight. The recommendation #’s and bolded titles are from the article.

  • #1 Lake Wobegon Syndrome. Something is wrong when 95% or more of the hospitals are listed as average with very, very few in the below or above average category. But this does present an opportunity to really call out the outliers for special treatment or shunning. My hope is that we’ll get to finer gradations as the quality of the data increases.
  • #2 Report by Bricks and Mortar. Too many facilities are allowed to be grouped under one identifier, which tends to hide both good and bad performers. It’s related to issue #1 above.
  • #3 Military Hospitals and the VA. Very little information is presented for many federal hospitals. Actually, we should expect them to report more than the private sector since they are accountable to the taxpayer. And they should set the example for the rest of the system.
  • #7 Stop Avoiding Children. Hospital Compare is Medicare-centric. That’s an issue for the non-Medicare population as a whole, but especially for pediatrics. This is a more difficult hole to fill.

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By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.

Should we care if doctors drop Medicare?

July 31st, 2013 by

A small but increasing number of doctors have stopped taking Medicare patients, according to new data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Reasons cited include low reimbursement rates, high paperwork burden, and pressure to adopt electronic medical records. And a few doctors are scrapping private insurance, too, for some of the same reasons.

It doesn’t bother me to see this happening. In fact it might be healthy if the trend were to accelerate, because it would provoke some interesting policy conversations. For example:

  • Does it really make sense to use an insurance mechanism for routine, relatively low cost expenditures such as primary care? We don’t have insurance for gasoline and oil changes for our cars. If we did away with third-party reimbursement for much of primary care it could drive down the cost of doing business and enable lower pricing. We already see this with certain “direct care” models. (One reason so much comes under the insurance mechanism is that it’s tax advantaged under current law. We should have a serious discussion about repealing the tax deductibility of health insurance to reduce the distortions and inefficiencies that it causes.)
  • Should different payers be allowed to pay doctors different prices for the same service, or should it be the same price for all comers? Why should Medicare pay less or more than Blue Cross or an uninsured patient for a visit or a procedure? There’s a lot of time and energy spent on negotiating and administering the rates and it’s not clear that much value is achieved
  • Why is it that primary care struggles so mightily while specialists, especially those performing procedures, enjoy much cushier rates? Some light has been shed on this topic recently –but a whole lot more is needed