No major healthcare reform initiatives will occur until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. When Joe Biden becomes President, he’ll be too busy getting everyone vaccinated, helping the economy recover and fighting climate change to focus on his praiseworthy reform agenda. Meanwhile, states are too hamstrung by COVID-19’s financial impact to promulgate strong reform measures. Legislators in several blue states … Continue reading Four Pandemic Lessons for Healthcare Reform
Primary care is in trouble again. Last summer, as government assistance programs expired or wound down, primary care practices across the country were struggling to stay afloat because of lost business. By October, patient visits had rebounded in most specialties. But by mid-November, as COVID-19 surged everywhere, primary care physicians reported that they faced critical staffing shortages and limited … Continue reading Primary Care Is Facing a Very Difficult Winter
Starting January 1, U.S. hospitals and health systems must begin making information on their “standard charges”—including their negotiated charges to specific health insurers--available to the public. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is requiring providers to do this in hopes that it will prompt consumers to price shop, which it expects will bring down health … Continue reading Will Transparency Force Hospitals to Cut Prices?
In a recent podcast about the future of telehealth, Lyle Berkowitz, MD, a technology consultant, entrepreneur, and professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, confidently predicted that, because of telehealth and clinical automation, “In 10-20 years, we won’t need primary care physicians [for routine care]. The remaining PCPs will specialize in caring for complicated patients. Other … Continue reading Will AI-Automation Replace Basic Primary Care? Should It?
Last spring, the big healthcare debate between the Democratic candidates for the Presidential nomination was whether we should build on the Affordable Care Act (with a public option, natch) or go straight to Medicare for All. Now, with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, the terms of the debate may … Continue reading How Justice Barrett’s Confirmation Might Bring On Medicare for All
The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent drop in patient visits have led some observers to conclude that primary care physicians would be better off financially if they were capitated than if they were paid fee for service. If they received a fixed amount of money per health plan member per month, they’d have a guaranteed income … Continue reading Direct Primary Care: Great for Some Doctors, But Challenging for Patients
In the strangest healthcare business story of 2020, the major health insurance companies are thriving despite—or because of—the pandemic. As the second quarter reports of United, Anthem, Cigna and other insurers reveal, their COVID-19-related costs were outweighed by the sharp drop in claims for other healthcare services. As a result, the second quarter operating gain … Continue reading Health Insurers Ride High for Now, But Watch What’s Coming Next
A recent report by Merritt Hawkins, the physician recruiting firm, includes two key revelations about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on physicians: Merritt Hawkins’ searches on behalf of prospective employers have dropped by 30% since March 31, and up to 35% of practices in some markets might soon close because of their unsustainable financial losses. As … Continue reading Physicians of America, Unite! You Don’t Have to Work for Hospitals
As COVID-19 cases soar across the country, the federal government has lost control of the situation. Amid the Trump Administration’s happy talk and outright dismissal of the crisis, the U.S. is experiencing a forest fire of contagion and hospitalizations, and an upsurge in COVID-related deaths has already begun. Many other advanced countries have controlled their … Continue reading Collective State Action Is Needed to Fight This Pandemic Right Now
Telehealth has been a lifeline for many doctors and patients during the pandemic, and the decisions of CMS and many private payers to cover telehealth visits—in some cases, at full parity with in-person visits--has helped physician practices stave off bankruptcy. Assuming that these policies remain in effect after the pandemic, I agree with the commentators who assert … Continue reading Telehealth Expansion Should Be Planned Intelligently, Long-Term