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Monday, April 15, 2013

Changes due to Obamacare will collapse healthcare system????

The following is a guest post by our friend Will Lessons. I asked him to write his opinion about a recent article in called, "Reducing Readmissions in the COPD Population," by Robert Messenger (I wonder if that's a pen name).

Okay folks, I have no choice but to write about the future of healthcare.  Yes, I will delve into politics here, although it's something I must write about on this blog, because some of the changes that are coming to healthcare, compliments of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, -- Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, Healthcare law, or whatever you want to call it.

This was a serious topic at our recent RT Meeting.  My boss says the newest measure that took effect October 1, 2013 is COPD reimbursement.  CMS already set reimbursement criteria for CHF, MI and Pneumonia, and now it is setting such criteria for COPD.  The goal is to diminish the cost the government has to pay.

The new COPD criteria for reimbursement says that if a COPD patient is readmitted to the hospital (ER and observation visits don't count) for any reason -- even if it's a stubbed toe -- the government will not reimburse for that patient.  Plus if the hospital has a poor showing overall -- a high rate of COPD re admissions -- CMS will punish that hospital by 1% this year, 2% in 2014, and 3% in 2015.

The goal here is that we need to work harder to prevent these patients from getting readmitted.  We need to be proactive.  We need to spend more money so the government doesn't have to.  This is not market driven, and it is not common sense.  It's impossible.  This is according to my boss, and, he says, according to his boss too.

He said government basically sat down one day and decided to look at diseases that cost the government a lot of money, and decided to set goals that were impossible for hospitals to meat.  In this way, the government won't have to pay, my boss said.  The problem, he said, was that the government costs will go down, but hospital costs will skyrocket.

The new criteria are impossible to meat, and within the next few years our hospital will be forced to close its doors.  The only hospitals that will be able to stay open will be large hospitals, and therefore there will be universal healthcare.  "I think this is the goal of Obamacare," he said, "to collapse the healthcare system and so people cry to the government for help."

Think of it this way: COPD patients usually have co-morbidities.  A patient could be admitted today for COPD, next week for CHF, the week later for kidney failure, next month for diabetes, and later on for GI bleed, and then  for a blockage in the intestines.  You see, you simply cannot prevent these patients from being readmitted.  These are our bread and butter.

Yes, the government knows COPD is the fastest growing disease, and #4 on the list of most common ailments.  So they simply are creating criteria that cannot be met so they don't have to pay.  Our hospital has already hired 30 people -- lawyers, statisticians, QA analyzers, accountants, etc. -- just to make sure we will comply with Obamacare.  This is all wrong, because the focus is no longer on patient care, it's on: how can we make money?

Some COPD patients are noncomliant, and there's no way you can get them to take their medicine.  Some patients won't wear oxygen, some won't wear BiPAP, and some won't take some unproven cancer medicine.  and I can't say I don't empathize with these concerns.  I wouldn't want to wear BiPAP, for example.

My boss said, "And you can disagree with me, but people get readmitted not due to poor quality of care (most of the time), they get readmitted because they are very sick people.  The government is too stupid or too blind to see this. Either that, or they are bound and determined to create a system that is guaranteed to fail.  Do they have an agenda here?  You decide."

I personally think it's good to create programs to decrease admissions, although I also believe a better incentive should be in place other than cutting government costs.  People talk about not fair, it's not fair that the government gets to pay less if hospitals fail, and there is no benefit to the hospital if the government fails hospitals.  That, to me, is not fair.

I personally cannot say I disagree with my boss.  I think the intent of Obamacare was to collapse the healthcare system.  I think all those people who said the following were either lying to sell the law, or are ignorant altogether:
  • Obamacare is not a tax (the Supreme Court said it is)
  • People won't lose their own insurance (many people are)
  • Healthcare costs won't go up for you (they are, and by a lot, up to 146% in California alone)
  • Healthcare costs will not go up they will go down (hmmmm?)
  • Obamacare will only cost????? Every government program eventually costs most than they say!
Note: this post was not written with the intent to political bash a certain party.  Both parties are equally responsible for the current position of healthcare.  This is our problem, although it's one created by our government.  Our government, the one we have elected, has failed us big time. That's why Congress has a popularity rating less than 5% (and this rating has been consistent regardless of who controls it).  

And all of this stuff I predicted on this blog, and many of you guys said I was nuts.  I even got hate mail from some of my readers.  Trust me, I don't want to write about this stuff.  I am forced to.  It definitely effects what we do on the job, and it shouldn't.  Doctors should be deciding how to treat patient, not politicians.  It makes me sick just thinking about it. 

Thanks for allowing me to write my opinion.  Will

Now it's your turn.  Be nice!!!! However, before commenting, please educate yourself by studying the law, and reading posts like this over at I believe the best way to improve healthcare is through education and passion.

The opinions expressed in this post may or may not be the shared by the authors of this blog.  

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